A major power grid improvement project launched in 2014 to support southeast New Mexico’s electric reliability and economic development efforts has reached a significant milestone with the completion of a new high-voltage transmission line in southern Eddy and Lea counties.
“Over the past 15 years we’ve seen phenomenal economic growth in southeast New Mexico, especially in Lea and Eddy counties,” said David Hudson, president, Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas. “To ensure our customers have the necessary capacity to power that growth, we have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in upgraded and new lines and substations across this area. And in some places, we have built lines where there was virtually no infrastructure at all.”
Xcel Energy’s Power for the Plains transmission grid expansion was already in high gear when the Southwest Power Pool released its High Priority Incremental Load Study in 2014 that called for an additional $557 million in high-voltage infrastructure for Texas and New Mexico. The SPP is a regional transmission organization that oversees the bulk electric grid and wholesale power market on behalf of utilities and transmission companies in the central U.S. covering portions of 17 states. A large focus of that 2014 SPP study was the lack of transfer capacity in Lea and Eddy counties, resulting in the development of new 345-kilovolt lines branching from a new trunk line originating in Texas.
Two lines identified in the 2014 study were completed in 2018. SPP later issued a notice to construct a third segment that would close the loop on the two lines earlier identified. This month, the last of these line segments has been completed between China Draw Substation, located 22 miles south of Carlsbad, to Roadrunner Substation, located 23 miles northwest of Jal. Xcel Energy also built the new Phantom Substation at the midpoint of the newest line, which is the bottom segment of a three-part loop feeding from Kiowa Substation located 14 miles northeast of Carlsbad. The previous segments were:
A 40-mile line segment between the Kiowa Substation and Roadrunner Substation that was originally built in 2015 as a 230-kilovolt line and converted to 345-kilovolt service in 2018.
A 90-mile 345-kilovolt transmission line from the Hobbs area to Kiowa Substation and down to China Draw that was completed in 2018.
“These lines and substations have been a vital part of New Mexico’s economic and job creation success, and a key component in the state of New Mexico’s tax revenues. We’re proud of the many employees who have accomplished so much in a short amount of time to make it happen,” Hudson said. “But it wouldn’t have been possible without the support and cooperation of our community partners who understand the importance of a robust power grid that is capable of powering growth for years to come.”
Transmission lines are the backbone of the power grid, moving electricity from power generating sources across long distances to towns, cities and industrial areas. These lines feed into substations that lower the voltage and move electricity onto local distribution systems and ultimately to the customer.
Xcel Energy has invested more than $3 billion in its New Mexico and Texas transmission grid since 2011. Additionally, the company has invested large sums in distribution system upgrades that include hundreds of miles of new lines to connect new customers as well as capacity upgrades on existing lines to meet the needs of business expansion and neighborhood growth.