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Xcel completes overhaul of Roswell grid

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Xcel Energy’s improvements in the Roswell area include an $11 million upgrade in the Roswell International Air Center sector. (Submitted Graphic)

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Xcel Energy is wrapping up a multi-year project to boost the reliability and capacity of the city’s power grid with a major upgrade to Roswell International Air Center where the city’s airport, a university and prime industrial sites are located.

“The improvements we’ve made over the last several years are boosting the reliability of the city’s electrical system and bringing a more abundant supply of power into areas where it’s needed the most,” said Mike McLeod, regional manager for community and economic development in Roswell. “This gives our city a leg up as we work to expand businesses, create new ones and make our neighborhoods more livable.”

The continued development of the Roswell International Air Center, also known as RIAC, has been a city priority for many years, but the electrical system serving it dates back to the days when this area was home to Walker Air Force Base. Xcel Energy has invested more than $11 million upgrading the RIAC area to a higher voltage, which provides reliability improvements in addition to boosting the capacity to serve new and growing businesses.

This conversion, along with other improvements across the city, was made possible by a $24 million project to upgrade several key substations and build a new high-voltage transmission loop around the city that was completed in 2018, McLeod said.

One of the new substations completed last year is Sierra Substation on the northern edge of the old air base property. Sierra takes power at 115 kilovolts from the new transmission loop and replaces three older substations in the RIAC footprint. As work was wrapping on the new substation, Xcel Energy crews began to upgrade lines and transformers at RIAC to 15-kilovolt service, which is the standard distribution voltage in other parts of the city. Previously, this area was served by a 4-kilovolt system that predates facilities in other area neighborhoods.

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“By upgrading the voltage, the lines will be capable of serving larger loads without concern of straining the system,” McLeod said. “We also have more options to tap adjoining 15-kilovolt neighborhoods in the event of outages. This, plus the fact that we have more replacement parts for a 15-kilovolt system, should speed restoration times.”

McLeod pointed out that Xcel Energy’s regional operating company, Southwestern Public Service Co., has its origins in Roswell in 1904 and has powered the city’s growth ever since.

“Roswell’s economic health and quality of life have always been dependent on investments in new power lines, substations and electrical connections that not only meet today’s needs, but also provide the capability of providing higher levels of power as the city grows,” McLeod said.