Weather Forecast


Xcel Energy working to beat the heat

Children and adults line up to descend the Red Wing Water Park slide at Colvill Park.

Xcel Energy came close to breaking its single-day 9,544 megawatt usage record for the region this week as people, businesses and industries fired up air conditioners. Despite temperatures approaching 100 degrees on several days, the energy record from July 20, 2011, stands.

The closest the utility came was a demand for just under 9,500 mw at one point Monday, according to unofficial records.

"We've actually been managing it very well," Laura McCarten said of customer demand.

The Xcel regional vice president visited the Republican Eagle office Tuesday. She proved correct when she predicted that the timely Fourth of July holiday the next day would prevent breaking the record because factories closed.

Minnesota, Wisconsin and the Dakotas, which are all part of the service region, are in the throes of a heat wave that almost rivals one from 1949. In Red Wing, official temperatures July 2 through 6 ranged from 95 to 99. The highs were 102 and 104 during that same stretch in 1949.

The utility was prepared to handle the recent heat wave, McCarten said. Crews were on standby to address equipment failures and had plants ready for full production.

The spring and autumn peaks are 50 percent lower than the summer demand, McCarten added.

"That's when we will fire up oil plants for a few hours," she said. "We also do not schedule any maintenance that's discretionary."

Workers and independent contractors completed refueling of Prairie Island Unit 2, for example, June 5.

To put the demand in perspective, the Prairie Island nuclear plant has a capacity to produce approximately 1,100 mw at any given point in time that the two units are running. The Red Wing steam plant, which burns refuse-derived fuel or trash, has a capacity of 20 mw.

Xcel's electricity generation mix also includes coal, natural gas, solar and wind.

Despite numerous outages due to storm damage the previous week, crews successfully restored power in short order. Some scattered outages in Red Wing lasted just a few hours.

McCarten credited vegetation management around power lines and substations as well as checking of underground cables in helping mitigate storm-related outages. In addition, the utility has a program to identify the worst-performing feeder lines -- ones that feed a couple thousand customers -- and making upgrades a priority.

"I think all those things are paying off in customer reliability," McCarten said.

Emergency contacts for Xcel customers

• Electric emergency/power outage, 800-895-1999

• Natural gas emergency/leaks, 800-895-2999

• Streetlight outage, 800-960-6235

Anne Jacobson

Anne Jacobson has been editor of the Republican Eagle since December 2003. 

(651) 301-7870