Xcel Energy is investing $1.8 million in substation and line improvements in Lipscomb County, Texas, that will provide more options for restoring power during outages caused by damage on the county’s main electric feeder line.
Xcel Energy serves more than 1,000 customers in Darrouzett, Follett, Lipscomb and Higgins by way of a 73-mile long distribution line that takes its power from a substation at Booker, 12 miles west of Darrouzett on State Highway 15. In recent years, the line has experienced reliability issues that mostly stem from weather impacts or vehicle accidents occurring between Booker and Darrouzett. Because the Booker connection is the only power source for this line, the outages affect service in multiple communities all the way to Higgins, almost 45 line miles away.
Xcel Energy seeks to alleviate this exposure with an alternative power source farther down the line made possible by tapping a transmission line owned by North Plains Electric Co-op near the existing Shattuck Substation, 7.5 miles south of Follett on FM 1454. A new Xcel Energy substation called Skunk Creek would enable Xcel Energy to switch and move power from the co-op’s transmission line onto the distribution line that serves the four Lipscomb County communities in the event of damage farther up the main distribution feed.
Additionally, Xcel Energy is investing in more switching points on the main feeder line that would better allow the company to isolate line faults along the entire length of the line and reroute power around them in order to restore service more quickly.
“Lipscomb County is a remote and beautiful part of the state, and it’s also remote from the rest of our regional power grid, so we have to be creative in how we boost the reliability in that area,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy Texas. “By adding another emergency power source along that main distribution feeder and modernizing the existing line, we can react to weather-related outages much more quickly and with more options to get the power flowing to most of the affected customers until the damage is repaired.”
Winter Storm Jupiter devastated the power grid in Lipscomb and surrounding counties in Texas and Oklahoma on Jan. 15 when heavy fog and rain froze on power lines. The extra weight caused poles and cross arms to break, and the main feeder line connecting the four Lipscomb County communities was heavily damaged along its entire length. Entire communities were in the dark for as many as five days until the line could be rebuilt. While it’s difficult to prevent power outages during rare events such as an ice storm, the planned line upgrades could shorten the amount of time customers would be without power by allowing Xcel Energy to target repairs to key areas rather than starting at one end of the 73-mile line and working toward the end.
“We can’t stop severe weather, but we can invest in improvements to fortify our lines and reduce the impact of bad weather,” Hudson said.
Company officials expect the Skunk Creek project to be completed by first quarter 2018.
(Press Release from Xcel Energy)