More than a dozen residents, city and county officials joined the staff of Xcel Energy Tuesday to break ground on a new backup power plant in Tucumcari.
This power station will act as a back up power system for Tucumcari and during peak usage will be used to aid in Xcel power generation, said Alan Davidson, director of regional capital projects for Xcel Energy.
This project will provide a short-term economic boost to the community through the construction of the plant, said Mike McLeod, Xcel's regional manager for community and economic development.
McLeod said in the long term, the power station will help stabilize the city's power infrastructure.
"This is going to be a project which will help Tucumcari and its residents," said Amiel Curnutt, mayor of Tucumcari.
"Too many times, the residents of Tucumcari flip on their light switches or adjust their thermostats without ever thinking about what's behind them," said Patrick Vanderpool, executive director of the Greater Tucumcari Economic Development Corp.
Vanderpool said it is fantastic that the city has this partnership with Xcel, which will ensure power is available for both residential and economic use.
Davidson said residents should know that the system is primarily for backup when there is a long-term interruption to the grid. He said it would not be fired up if there was a short-term blackout caused by a storm.
Transmission lines between Clovis and Tucumcari are exposed and are susceptible to being damaged by fire or weather, said Wes Reeves, Xcel Energy spokesman.
Reeves said if those lines were damaged resulting in an extended outage then the new power station would be activated.
Davidson said Xcel Energy knew the previous power facility once located in downtown Tucumcari had not been used for several years because of the age and condition of the generators. He said that plant could not supply the wattage of power necessary to keep Tucumcari running.
Xcel then developed a plan to move a turbine, with a capacity of 23 megawatts, from an existing facility just north of Borger, Texas to Tucumcari adjacent to the company's Campbell Street Substation. The relocated turbine will be fueled by low-sulfur transportation diesel, and has enough capacity to meet the electricity demand of the entire city if the main transmission line fails.
The new power project includes an expansion of the existing Campbell Street Substation and modifications to local electrical distribution to accommodate the new generator.
Davidson said the gas turbine generator will be moved from Texas after the 2012 summer peak season and will be operational by late spring 2013.