Seventy miles of electrical transmissions lines were completed this year, mostly in southeast New Mexico, by one of the region’s biggest electricity providers – part of a $3 billion expansion and decade-long power grid improvement project by Xcel Energy.
The project involves hundreds of miles of new and updated transmission lines, providing electricity to local communities and industrial sites in southeast New Mexico and West Texas, where growth in the oil and gas industry in the Permian Basin continues to require more electricity for energy production.
Investments also included expanding substations and transformers along lower-voltage distribution lines for rural area.
“Economic expansion in the region, along with a need to upgrade and modernize the system, led us to undertake the Power for the Plains efforts,” read a May 22 news release from Xcel.
A 40 mile section of the 170 transmission line was completed this year, providing 345 kilovolts between Hobbs and Yoakum County, Texas.
Work was ongoing on another 345-kilovolt line between the TUCO Substation north of Abernathy, Texas and the Yoakum Substation near Plains, Texas.
That line, when completed, will provide power to southern Eddy and Lea counties in New Mexico, in the heart of the Permian Basin.
David Hudson, Xcel president for New Mexico and Texas said the work in the Permian Basin region is intended to meet the oil and gas industry’s growing needs during the current boom in fossil fuel production.
“Transmission projects have been critical to meeting the growing demand of oil and gas development, which is driving economic investment and made the Permian Basin one of the largest energy plays in the world,” he said.
About 150 Xcel employees are working on the Hobbs-Yoakum line, staying in local communities and providing an economic impact to local businesses and suppliers, Hudson said.
“Crews working in the field are staying at local hotels and eating at local restaurants,” he said. “We also seek to purchase supplies locally whenever possible.”
Another 115-kilovolt transmission line was completing, including seven miles in Eunice, 15 miles in Carlsbad and nine miles in Yoakum County, Texas.
The company also plans to cut carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030, aspiring to 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050.
New Mexico Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham signed the Energy Transition Act earlier this year, calling on New Mexico energy providers to be 100 percent carbon free by 2045.
“This vision includes developing technologies that will enable us to continue using some carbon-based generating resources without emitting carbon dioxide into the atmosphere,” the release read.
Michael Lamb, Xcel’s senior vice president of transmission said the lines are a low-cost path toward zero carbon emissions and utilizing renewable energy supplies.
“By investing in transmission, we are finding a way for low-cost, zero carbon energy sources — including wind and solar — to reach customers,” Lamb said.
“Transmission moves energy to where it is needed. We need this infrastructure to meet Xcel Energy’s ambitious vision to be carbon free by 2050, while keeping customer costs low, ensuring reliability and helping the environment.”
Toward such a vision, Xcel is building 239 wind turbines in the Texas South Plains.
They are active while final tests are conducted at the Hale Wind Project, Hale County, Texas, read the release.
When completed, the turbines will produce enough energy to power up to 184,00 homes, the release read, with 478 megawatts of capacity producing at a factor of about 54 percent.
It will connect to the power grid through a 14-mile transmission line and substation.
Wind energy accounts for about 20 percent of Xcel’s power supplied to the region, and will likely double by 2022, read the release, as about 49-percent of the electricity served to customers will be carbon-free.
Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, firstname.lastname@example.org or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.
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