Xcel Energy plans for upgrades

Alisa Boswell

A colder-than-normal Feburary has given New Mexico power companies even more incentive to make power system upgrades.

Xcel Energy had upgrades already in the works, but company spokesperson Wes Reeves said power outages on days featuring below-freezing were eye-opening.

Reeves said during Portales’ cold spell, the most drastic temperatures were in the early hours of the morning and in the evening, which meant all of Portales’ residents were using large amounts of electricity at the same time. Reeves said the power system was overwhelmed and transformers were going out.

“In more cases, what we’ve seen is customers with electric heating,” Reeves said. “In those extreme weather conditions, customers will do anything when it gets below zero to stay warm. People will use more space heaters.”

Upgrades will include a new power line on Lime Street, which will help give a higher voltage capacity to businesses and homes and help create backup power with the Portales substations.

According to David Essex, Xcel Energy’s manager of community service and economic development, the company will move about 70 residential and commercial blocks to a higher-voltage service, then redistribute the remaining homes and businesses into other power blocks to balance the power system.

Circuit breakers and transformers at neighborhood substations are also being upgraded to handle higher loads. One breaker has been replaced already, and five more are scheduled for replacement by the end of the year.

“Portales is a prosperous community and is poised for more growth,” Essex said. “The recent reliability problems are growing pains and also the result of some unprecedented cold weather. Regardless of the cause, it is up to Xcel Energy to provide reliable service and to anticipate future customer needs.”

Attempts to contact the Roosevelt County Electric Cooperative concerning effects of weather conditions and potential upgrades were unsuccessful.