Xcel Energy, through a cooperative arrangement with a neighboring utility, has invested $2.8 million in a backup power solution for four rural communities in the northeastern Texas Panhandle that speeds restoration times when storms or road accidents interrupt service on Xcel Energy’s main electric feeder line.
“Our customers in that area have been hard-hit by extreme weather over the years, and it often has resulted in long-duration outages because we’ve had no way to back power in from another direction while repairs are made,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – Texas. “But with help from our friends, we’ve found a cost-effective solution that has already proven its worth.”
Xcel Energy serves more than 1,000 customers in the Lipscomb County communities of 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. Because the Booker connection was the only power source for this line, outages in the northern part of the county have, for years, affected service in multiple communities all the way to Higgins, almost 45 line miles away.
Even before Winter Storm Jupiter devastated the Lipscomb County power grid in 2017, Xcel Energy engineers had been working on plans for a backup option involving an alternate power source farther down the line. The solution was a tap on a transmission line owned by North Plains Electric Co-op near the co-op’s existing Shattuck Substation, 7.5 miles south of Follett on FM 1454. A new Xcel Energy substation called Skunk Creek has been built near the North Plains facility that enables Xcel Energy to move power from the co-op’s transmission line onto the distribution line that serves four Lipscomb County communities in the event of damage farther up the main distribution feed.
The benefit of this new source was clear on Feb. 5 when a critical segment of the main feeder was damaged in an automobile accident outside of Booker. Xcel Energy was able to tap the North Plains source and back feed its main feeder line, restoring electricity service within an hour and a half.
Similar outages in the future can be restored even faster once new automated switches along the main line are fully operational. These switches should be ready for service within a matter of weeks, and can be activated remotely once crews isolate the damaged segment of the line from the rest of the grid.
“We are grateful for the cooperation of city and county officials in this area, and the willingness of North Plains Co-op to assist us in devising this backup option,” Hudson said. “By working with our neighbors, we’ve been able to find a viable solution at a fraction of the cost of building a new transmission connection to another Xcel Energy facility.”