By Thomas Garcia
QCS Senior Writer
Upgrading its power grid in New Mexico, Xcel Energy reports it has spent more than $33 million with state-based and local vendors to stimulate area and state economies.
“We want our customers to know Xcel Energy is committed to more than just providing reliable electricity service,” said Wes Reeves, Xcel spokesperson.
“Xcel Energy is committed to investing in the economic growth of the communities it serves.”
Reeves said the purchases ranged from fuel and food from local retail outlets to the purchase of building materials for new substations and power lines.
“The upgrades to the infrastructure will help deliver increased power supplies to a regional economy primed for growth,” Reeves added.
“We have continued to invest in our New Mexico communities even as other industries have pulled back,” said David Hudson, president of Xcel Energy New Mexico.
“We have served New Mexico since 1904, and we know from long experience that down cycles in the economy are the best times to plan for the future.”
Xcel Energy serves more than 112,000 customers in New Mexico, covering six eastern and southeastern counties and 16 towns and cities.
Reeves said Tucumcari makes up 1 percent of Xcel’s New Mexico/Texas customers. There are 2,465 residential electric customers and 584 business receiving power from Xcel, Reeves said.
Based on an analysis of its 2015 expenditures, Xcel returned $124,601 to Tucumcari in franchise fees — the fees the company pays for the right to place its facilities in public right-of-way in order to serve all customers in a given town or county.
Xcel also paid $68,577 in taxes for sales, use and property in Tucumcari.
Reeves said the Tucumcari Generating Station, a $20-million facility completed in 2013, is an example of Xcel Energy’s upgrades of the region’s power grid. He said the local economic impact that year would have been much higher.
Reeves said the station, which can generate up to 23 megawatts of power, was designed to meet Tucumcari’s electricity demand in the event of a power outage. He said the plant could also be activated to help meet regional electric loads on days when electricity demand is very high.
Tucumcari is connected to Xcel’s electric grid by a single 115-kilovolt transmission line that runs from Clovis to Tucumcari, said David Essex, Xcel community service manager.
Essex said in June 2011 an interruption in that line caused Tucumcari to lose power for an extended period. He said a fire damaged and downed several power poles between Clovis and Tucumcari.
“The back-up station in Tucumcari was obsolete and could not meet the area’s power demand,” Essex said. “Xcel Energy worked with the city of Tucumcari to address and remedy this problem.”
Reeves said the company has 233 employees in New Mexico and also employs third-party contractors who also make purchases and pay taxes in the area.
Essex said the Xcel Energy Foundation has donated more than $40,000 to Mesalands Community College to provide scholarships for the wind energy technology program. He said Xcel scholarships have assisted with more than 30 students completing the wind energy program.
“The scholarships are a way for Xcel to give back to our community,” Essex said. “The wind energy industry continues to grow. Xcel is proud to partner with Mesalands in the training of skilled people to work in a demanding field.”