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Xcel adds $65 million transmission line to Carlsbad area, responds to growing local demand

A multi-million-dollar transmission line in Eddy County was completed by a major utility provider in the area in response to growth in southeast New Mexico’s oil and gas industry and increasing power needs throughout the region.

Xcel Energy announced it completed the 345-kilovolt Eddy County to Kiowa transmission line and that it was in service on Tuesday to meet the current and future growth.

The new line stretches 34 miles between the Eddy County Substation about 10 miles southeast of Artesia to the Kiowa Substation about 15 miles northeast of Carlsbad.

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The project saw 185 steel structures constructed, with 3,500 cubic yards of cement poured and 1.1 million feet of conductor strung along the line.

In total, the line meant a $65 million investment by Xcel.

It joined a 240-mile, 345-kilovolt line from an area north of Lubbock, Texas to the China Draw Substation near Carlsbad, completed earlier this year.

David Hudson, president of Xcel’s Texas and New Mexico operations said the line was part of the company’s broader goal of increasing power supply to southeast New Mexico and West Texas and surrounding regions through its decades-long, $3 billion Power to the Plains project.

More: Energy companies eye renewables for oil and gas operations in the Permian Basin

Power to the Plains saw Xcel build 1,300 miles of new transmission lines since 2011 to connect power sources with rural communities and industrial areas in the region.

About 75 new substations were built, and Xcel plans to add another 200 more miles of transmission and 11 substations by 2021.

“The new Eddy-Kiowa line is a major component of our 10-year plan to significantly boost the amount of power flowing into the job-creation engine of New Mexico’s economy and to sustain regional industries for decades to come,” he said.

“We have essentially built a new power grid where very little transmission infrastructure existed before, and the transformation has been phenomenal.”

More: New Mexico’s renewable energy sector growing in rural areas, local seek to capitalize

Hudson said the expansion to local power grids in the Permian Basin was essential to supporting the economic growth experienced and expected in the region and continued to move forward despite the present economic downturn amid the COVID-19 health crisis.

He said that despite the pandemic, Xcel still expected the region to grow for decades.

“We invested a large amount of capital into southeastern New Mexico at a time when most companies were pulling back because of the pandemic and a slowing economy,” Hudson said. “We succeeded in spite of the headwinds thanks to our dedicated employees and because we have a great amount of faith that our New Mexico industries and communities will continue to grow.

“This new transmission line will provide a greater supply of electric power to enable the economic growth that’s so important to everyone.”

More: Oil, gas markets recover slightly from COVID-19, investments return to Permian Basin

Michael Lamb, senior vice president of transmission for Xcel said the project was meant to increase energy reliability for customers in the rural area and prepare the utility for future growth throughout the region.

“It really sets us up for the future because it increases the capacity for load growth including oil and gas expansion and renewable energy development,” he said.

Recently, Xcel began expanding its power grid in Carlsbad, spending $7.1 million in response to growing local demand in the area, installing line upgrades at the Pecos, Hopi, Fiesta and North Canal substations which supply power to local customers.

More: Devon Energy merges with WPX Energy in $12 billion deal focused on Permian Basin oil

A new substation was built in southwest Carlsbad to relieve taxes on the rest of the grid during summer heatwaves that bring on heavy use of air conditioning and other climate control methods.

Known as the Sisko Substation, it was planned near Alta Vista Middle school and expected to be completed in spring 2021.

The company also continued to pursue its goal of cutting carbon emissions by 80 percent by 2030, after reducing such emissions by 47 percent since 2005 and hoping to be 100 percent carbon free by 2050.

More: Xcel invests $7.1 million in Carlsbad power grid, continues push for renewable energy

Wind farms throughout the area continued to increase their share of electricity provided by Xcel, setting daily record of 64 percent of the day’s energy in the region on April 12 and setting the hourly record of 76 percent on May 8.

With the incoming Democrat administration of President-elect Joe Biden, who embraced renewable energy and the transition away from fossil fuels throughout his campaign, the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) released a report on Tuesday suggesting priorities the administration could take in the transition.

The AWEA suggested Biden enact an executive during the first 100 days of his term to commit the federal government purchase renewable energy for 35 percent of its power supply by 202 and set a national policy to achieve 100 percent renewable energy by 2035.

More: Chevron uses renewables to power oil and gas operations, market shows signs of recovery

The report also called for regulatory goals for 2021 to tax carbon, add standards for the nation’s renewable energy portfolio and improve transmission for renewable energy across the country while expediting permitting processes and offering incentives to energy suppliers shifting to renewables.

“America begins this new decade with the chance to shape an affordable, thriving energy future defined by clean electricity. Our country’s leaders must now move forward with bold, sensible policies to create that future, or risk leaving hundreds of thousands of new jobs and hundreds of billions in investments behind,” said AWEA Chief Executive Officer Tom Kiernan.

“With this plan, the American renewable energy sector stands ready to help revitalize the U.S. economy and forge a more prosperous future for local communities across the country.”

Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.

This article originally appeared on Carlsbad Current-Argus: Xcel adds $65 million transmission line to Carlsbad area, responds to growing local demand

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