AMARILLO, Texas (KAMR/KCIT) — Xcel Energy announced today that it has been selected for a $100 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to boost its work to reduce and mitigate the threat of wildfires and ensure the resiliency of the grid through extreme weather.
According to Xcel, the funding, provided through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program and matched by a $140 million cost share provided by Xcel Energy, will support a range of projects that enhance the grid’s resiliency in the face of fires, severe storms, and other adverse environmental conditions to protect lives, homes, and forests better while reducing and preventing power outages. The projects will be based in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas, and Wisconsin.
“We recognize that the year-round risk of wildfires has grown, along with the severity of storms and other weather events that threaten the grid,” said Bob Frenzel, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. This funding from the Department of Energy will enhance our ability to meet this rising challenge with decisive action while reducing carbon emissions and ensuring reliable, affordable, and clean power for our customers.”
Officials with Xcel stated that climate conditions have changed, and environmental impacts on the power grid have grown more severe and frequent. Areas with traditional fire seasons have seen them evolve into year-round battles against rapidly changing and extreme weather conditions that can generate larger, more intense, and faster-moving wildfires.
Xcel officials also said the projects will take several steps to boost grid resiliency, including adding fire-resistant coatings to 6,000 wood poles, improving equipment safety features in power lines and electric vehicle chargers in high-fire-risk conditions, moving high-risk distribution circuits underground, and enhancing vegetation management.
“Xcel will also build on current programs using emerging technology, such as drones aided by artificial intelligence that inspect power lines for safety, wind strength testing, satellite identification of trees that pose a risk, and modeling software to predict how fires would spread,” said officials.
In addition, Xcel Energy stated it will use Department of Energy funds to complement an equal investment in customer-funded microgrids in the Resilient Minneapolis Project, which aims to support underserved communities in Minneapolis by providing solar, battery, and microgrid technologies to strengthen community resiliency. Microgrids at key community center locations will allow critical services to be delivered to communities in the event of a grid outage.
Xcel officials also noted that the projects are expected to span five years, with detailed design and planning starting in 2024 and projects completed by late 2028.