DENVER — Xcel Energy (Nasdaq: XEL) has been selected for a $100 million award from the U.S. Department of Energy to boost its work to reduce and mitigate the threat of wildfires and ensure the resiliency of the grid through extreme weather.
The funding, provided through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program and matched by a $140 million cost share provided by Xcel Energy, will support a range of projects that enhance the grid’s resiliency in the face of fires, severe storms and other adverse environmental conditions to better protect lives, homes and forests while reducing and preventing power outages. The projects will be based in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin.
“We recognize that the year-round risk of wildfires has grown, along with the severity of storms and other weather events that threaten the grid,” said Bob Frenzel, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy, in a prepared statement. “This funding from the Department of Energy will enhance our ability to meet this rising challenge with decisive action while reducing carbon emissions and ensuring reliable, affordable and clean power for our customers.”
One key qualification to consider when selecting a solar partner to install your system is whether they have an Operations and Maintenance (O&M) or service department. Since solar is a long-term asset with an expected lifecycle of 30 plus years, ongoing O&M should be considered up front. A trusted O&M partner will maximize your system’s energy output and therefor the return on your investment.
As climate conditions have changed, environmental impacts to the power grid have grown more severe and frequent. Areas with traditional fire seasons, for example, have seen them evolve into year-round battles against rapidly changing and extreme weather conditions that can generate larger, more intense and faster-moving wildfires.
The projects will take a number of steps to boost grid resiliency, including adding fire-resistant coatings to 6,000 wood poles, improving equipment safety features in power lines and electric-vehicle chargers in high fire risk conditions, moving high-risk distribution circuits underground, and enhancing vegetation management. They will also build on programs using emerging technology, such as drones aided by artificial intelligence that inspect power lines for safety, wind strength testing, satellite identification of trees that pose a risk and modeling software to predict how fires would spread.
In addition, the funding will support greater resilience for communities of color. Xcel Energy will use Department of Energy funds to complement an equal investment in customer-funded microgrids in the Resilient Minneapolis Project, which aims to support underserved communities there by providing solar, battery and microgrid technologies to strengthen community resiliency. Microgrids at key community center locations will allow critical services to be delivered to communities in the event of a grid outage.
The projects are expected to span five years, with detailed design and planning starting in 2024 and projects completing by late 2028. The DOE grant is contingent on negotiation and project logistics.
Xcel Energy has committed to reach net-zero carbon emissions responsibly and meet emissions reduction goals that align with climate targets. The company continues to make investments and improvements to strengthen the power grid, build resilience and increase its awareness of risks. Since 2019, Xcel Energy has invested more than $450 million in wildfire-mitigation activities in Colorado alone to strengthen its systems and better protect communities and the natural environment.