Reliability Upgrade for Southern Colorado
To maintain reliable delivery of power and meet current and future demand from customers, the Reliability Upgrade for Southern Colorado will ensure reliable power — now and in the future — by upgrading our infrastructure via a transmission line stretching from Pueblo West to Cañon City and three new substations in Pueblo West, Penrose and Cañon City.
The transmission line will enhance the integrity of the existing power grid to continue providing safe, reliable energy and empower economic development and prosperity for every community it passes through by significantly reducing the chance of service loss, improving overall reliability of the system and providing additional capacity for future growth.
Supporting growing demand and reliability
We consistently evaluate our system for factors that could impact the reliability or safety of the electric service we deliver. Age and capacity are two core factors. Continued growth and the need for additional infrastructure to serve communities like Pueblo West, Penrose and Cañon City, is driving this project to ensure delivery of the reliable electric service that our region needs to thrive. In the last few years, Pueblo West alone set an all-time historical system peak load and experienced a 48 percent load growth, meaning we’re close to having more demand than ability to deliver electricity. In Penrose and Cañon City, if service on our one transmission line is interrupted, customers in those communities could experience a total loss of power.
Reliability is key
We know from Southern Colorado customer surveys that Black Hills Energy customers care deeply about reliability. Our ultimate goal is to provide the most dependable energy efficiently and we make all business decisions with cost-efficiencies in mind. The Reliability Upgrade delivers on our mission to provide the reliable, safe and clean energy that our Southern Colorado communities need to thrive and grow.
Increasing reliability for Southern Colorado
This upgrade will reduce the risk of overload, safeguard against total power losses now and create opportunities for upgrading current distribution lines in the future, without interrupting power to homes and businesses.
Plus, reliable electric service is an important driver of growth and community prosperity for Southern Colorado. Black Hills is proud to provide the reliable energy that will be vital in powering and growing new businesses in the region and support and sustain efforts like the Cañon City downtown revitalization.
Selecting a route is a complex process and we balanced local, physical and technological constraints with the goal of delivering improved reliability and capacity each community. Throughout this process, Black Hills Energy has explored a variety of potential routes and approaches suggested by customers, including undergrounding the line.
We found that undergrounding the line could add up to almost $18 million to the cost of the project, reducing the projected customer cost savings from the Renewable Advantage solar facility, so this option was not pursued. Other routes we looked at either impacted more landowners, disturbed more land or were more expensive, which is why we presented this route, with the adjustments to accommodate customer input, to the Pueblo County and Fremont County Commissioners.
The transmission line will start at the existing West Substation and travel northwest through a Pueblo West Metro District designated utility corridor until it meets an existing natural gas pipeline easement. The transmission line then follows the pipeline easement before turning north and entering Fremont County, and proceeds on to Fort Carson Property. The transmission line meets the Western Area Power Authority (WAPA) 230-kilovolt line on Fort Carson property and follows it briefly as the transmission line enters Penrose. The transmission line then "stair steps" north on voluntary landowner easements before rejoining and following the WAPA line for the remainder of the route. By following these easements and utility corridors, we’re able to minimize our impacts in several ways:
- First, we replaced existing poles to accommodate the new circuit in all of Pueblo West except for two small sections in the Wildhorse Creek utility corridor where new poles were needed. This means that 60 of the 80 poles needed in Pueblo West for the transmission line replaced an existing pole that’s in place today; this reduces the number of properties in Pueblo West that otherwise would experience some view obstruction.
- Second, by using the Wildhorse Creek easement we did not create any new areas of land disturbance.
The Reliability Upgrade for Southern Colorado will deliver power from our existing West Substation in Pueblo, two new substations located at the intersection of 115th and K Streets in Penrose and west of the Hogback in Cañon City, and a substation in the industrial park of Pueblo West.
Safety is our first priority
Our number one priority is always public safety, employee safety and contractor safety. We regularly patrol the line to maintain the easement and reduce risks of fire or other accidents. Plus, we proactively prepare our linemen by training them on fire safety and on our Black Hills Major Event and Incident Response plan, to ensure we can respond quickly and efficiently.
Black Hills will operate the transmission line in accordance with all local, state and federal requirements.
Partnering with the Community
Throughout the process we listened carefully and responded to landowner concerns. Our right of way agents knocked on nearly every door along the route to speak directly with landowners. Based on what we heard, we removed the route from 12 neighbors’ backyards, by relocating a portion of the transmission line on federal land controlled by Fort Carson. In another area, we used a little more than six miles of wire to traverse an area only three miles in length to minimize the impact to landowners gracious enough to provide an easement. As promised, the final transmission line route was secured with 100 percent voluntary easements. We acknowledge that voluntary does not mean that everyone agrees with this route. It does mean, however that those who host this line on their property are exercising their private property rights. We are grateful to the Fremont and Pueblo County residents who have worked diligently with us to find a path.
Learn more about our proposed transmission upgrade and how it’ll benefit you and your community.
- Fact Sheet
- About the Planning and Approval Process
- About the Reliability Upgrade
- Reliability Upgrade Engineering and Construction
- Wakefield transmission line economic impact survey
- Currently Proposed Route (as of August, 2019)
- Currently Proposed Route Based on Customer Feedback (as of August, 2019)