Enhancing Service to Archuleta County
To help ensure reliability of electric service to members, LPEA endeavors to have in place “redundancy.” Members will often realize LPEA’s effort in this arena when lightning strikes, a storm takes a line down or some other outside entity causes the LPEA system to say “Hey, we see there’s a problem, so we’re shutting this line down because there is a fault.”
That’s where redundancy comes in, and why oftentimes, LPEA members are back in power in a short period of time because the Operations team is able to analyze the system and “switch” circuits, putting members back in power – rerouting power from a different direction or substation. Redundancy.
Unfortunately for Archuleta County - while the “in county” system between substations has redundancy – the major transmission line that brings the “power” to the county from generation stations elsewhere, is not of adequate capacity to supply the needed redundancy. This is the reason when the transmission line between Bayfield and Pagosa experiences a fault, Archuleta outages can be significant.
“It’s angst for us. With the mountain terrain, as well as rights-of-way, building a redundant line into Archuleta County has been slow in realization,” says Ron Meier, manager of engineering and member relations. “It’s not that we haven’t been working on it – and examining how we can get more ‘power’ to Archuleta County in a reliable and affordable fashion. It’s just a greater challenge given our service territory.”
But the good news is – the “redundancy” is truly underway. LPEA has initiated the design and permitting process to rebuild in place and convert the 69kV line to 115kV from Bayfield to Pagosa, bringing a transmission line of adequate capacity to increase the reliability of power into Archuleta County.
“That’s the very good news,” says Gayle Norman, manager of staking services. “This is the very beginning of a multi-year project to design the line, obtain easements and permits to rebuild and replace the existing 67-year-old line. But it’s underway.”
The rebuilt 115kV line will follow the existing transmission line route from the Tri-State Generation and Transmission substation in Bayfield (at which LPEA’s substation is located) to LPEA’s Ponderosa substation on the western side of Archuleta County.
The line to be rebuilt and enhanced is approximately 27 miles – through forested, mountainous terrain, and the visual corridor along Highway 160 will be preserved. Consultant ESC has been retained to provide professional engineering, land rights, and permitting services for the LPEA Bayfield – Ponderosa 115kV project.
“More good news is that we will be able to install fiber as part of the project,” says Meier. “Archuleta County has been challenged with internet connectivity, so this will definitely help the county and its residents.”
All costs are being amortized and budgeted over the coming years of the project. Ultimately, the rebuild is anticipated to cost $1.2 million.
“But when you consider the reliability benefit to all of our members in Archuleta County, that’s a bargain,” says Meier, noting that no increase in rates will be incurred because of the project. “Outages are something we loathe, and repairs to our system can take time. This should be a tremendous help to our members in Archuleta County and enhance overall reliability for LPEA.”
LPEA will keep members informed as the process ensues.
LPEA, a Touchstone Energy Cooperative established in 1939, provides to its more than 30,000 members, with in excess of 43,000 meters, safe, reliable electricity at the lowest reasonable cost, while being environmentally responsible. For additional information, contact LPEA at (970) 247-5786 or visit www.lpea.coop.