Xcel Energy faces high demand during summer heat

A July heat wave that baked Texas and New Mexico provided a good test for Xcel Energy’s investments in generating capabilities and an improved high-voltage transmission network as demand on the company’s regional transmission system reached 6,151 megawatts on July 19 – several weeks ahead of the anticipated summer peak.

A single megawatt is enough electricity to serve up to 500 typical homes in this region.

“Overall, our ability to supply the vast amount of electricity needed to meet this record demand has been largely unhindered, which is a direct result of the investments we’ve made in power lines, substations and power generating capacity,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas. “This large amount of demand would have caused serious concerns just a few years ago before we made these critical upgrades.”

Over the past several years, Xcel Energy has been freeing up power plant capacity that was historically reserved by wholesale customers such as rural electrical cooperatives and municipal utilities, which are increasingly procuring their own power supplies. As power demand grows in Xcel Energy’s service area, this capacity has become available to area towns and cities at a cost much lower than the cost of building new power plants. Hudson pointed out that the July peak was 350 megawatts above forecasted demand, and without the extra capacity from area power plants, the company would’ve had a difficult time meeting customer needs.

Along with power plant capacity, Xcel Energy has greatly expanded its import capabilities through new high-voltage transmission connections that have opened the region up to a wider power market. And with new lines such as the recently completed line between Hobbs and the Carlsbad area, the expanded network within the region is better able to move this extra power to growing load centers such as the southeast New Mexico oil fields.

Hudson said the company also is planning more than a dozen new distribution substations to relieve loading on existing facilities that, in the heat of the summer, operate at maximum capacity. A recent expansion in the Bushland, Texas, area is one of several enhancements planned for metro Amarillo, where customer demand has also surged this summer.

“The investments we’re making are designed with the idea that our Texas-New Mexico service region will continue to grow economically, and it is our responsibility to be prepared for this growth,” Hudson said.

Xcel Energy’s strategy for serving the growing economies in its Texas and New Mexico service area is detailed in an initiative called “Our Energy Future,” which focuses on building practical investments for the future, delivering affordable and reliable energy, and developing a diverse energy portfolio with environmental foresight.

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