Xcel Energy passed the test of July's heat wave in Texas and southeastern New Mexico.
On July 19 the demand on the company’s regional electrical transmission system reached 6,151 megawatts. A single megawatt is enough electricity to serve as many as 500 typical homes in the region. That's enough electricity to power more than 3 million homes.
"Overall, our ability to supply the vast amount of electricity needed to meet this record demand has been largely unhindered, which is a direct result of the investments we’ve made in power lines, substations and power generating capacity," said David Hudson, the president of Xcel Energy – New Mexico, Texas, in a prepared statement. "This large amount of demand would have caused serious concerns just a few years ago before we made these critical upgrades."
Some of those upgrades during the past several years have included Xcel Energy freeing up power plant capacity that was traditionally reserved for wholesale customers such as rural electrical cooperatives and municipal utilities, according to company officials. Those entities are going a different route to acquire their own power supplies.
Hudson said the July 19 peak was 350 megawatts more than expected demand, and without the extra capacity from area power plants, the company would’ve had a difficult time meeting customer needs.
Other upgrades are Xcel Energy's new high-voltage transmission connections such as last week's completed 86-mile, 345-kilovolt line between Hobbs, N.M., and the new China Draw Substation southeast of Carlsbad, N.M. The project was the first of several segments of a $400 million transmission improvement project that will connect to the TUCO Substation near Abernathy by mid-2020. More than 250 workers were involved in building this $140 million line segment and related substation improvements.
"The Hobbs-China Draw line opens up a critical pathway for additional power to sustain industrial growth and job creation in southeastern New Mexico,” Hudson stated. "Additionally, it will vastly improve the efficiency and reliability of our network, which over time will reduce costs to our customers.”
The new line will help one of the world’s most prolific oil- and gas-producing regions – the Permian Basin – continue to expand. In January, the U.S. Energy Information Agency reported that New Mexico's monthly oil production exceeded 16.3 million barrels. New Mexico surpassed Oklahoma and California last year to become the third-largest oil producer in the United States, according to the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
The Hobbs-China Draw line is a major component of Xcel’s Power for the Plains initiative. Xcel has invested in more than 800 miles of new transmission lines and more than 30 new substations across the two-state area since 2011. During that same time it has upgraded another 40 existing substations. Xcel will invest more than $3 billion in the initiative through 2021.