By Marty Mayfield
The recent power outages in Raton have caused concern especially since Raton Public Service used to produce its own electricity and now purchases power off the grid from Twin Eagle.
The first in this series will deal with how Raton gets the power from point A to point Raton. The journey begins in Colorado near Pueblo where Excel Energy has a power plant and several large transmission lines tie together. Does the power Raton get, actually come from that plant? Yes, however the way the electric grid is tied together at the power plant some of it may come from other generating plants. But this is where the 69KV transmission power line feeding Raton electricity begins.
The 69KV transmission line that feeds Raton ties to the grid at the power plant substation and comes south, travelling east of I-25. It crosses I-25 just north of Walsenburg and ties in with the Walsenburg Sub Station located on the west side of town. This substation is maintained by Tri-State Generation. From there the transmission line once again crosses I-25 and works its way south before crossing the interstate south of Aguilar where it goes west up and over the hills to Burro Canyon where it ties in with the Burro Canyon Sub Station, this substation is also maintained by Tri-State.
The Burro Canyon substation feeds power up and down the Purgatoire River feeding San Isabel Electric customers as well as sending power on to Raton. The big transmission line leaves Burro Canyon and heads south up and over the hills some of which is very rugged terrain and finally comes down Dillon Canyon to the Raton Sub Station located on Gardner Road just west of Raton. Springer Electric Coop also ties into this substation where they can feed RPS. Switch gear at the substation allows RPS to be switched to either the Burro Canyon line or Springer Electric Coop. From the Gardner Road Substation power is fed into the RPS substation at the power plant where eight different circuits feed power throughout Raton.
The outage on March 24, 2017 that caused Raton to go dark for about eight hours was caused by a broken power pole on the 69KV transmission line from the Raton Substation to the RPS power plant substation in downtown Raton. Due to weather and ground conditions it required a bull dozer to pull equipment in and out of the location where the pole was located which took several hours. Just to get the power back on RPS temporarily fixed the pole. They will have to go back out when conditions are more favorable to do a permanent repair on that pole.
It was that pole however, that kept Raton from getting power from Springer Electric Coop. Springer Electric also had poles down as well as other issues that prevented Raton from switching over to them that day too.
Before RPS can switch from the Burro Canyon line to Springer Electric several things must happen. First Tri-State Generation must be contacted where they then look at several factors including the electric load before the switch can be made. Springer Electric and RPS personnel must travel to the Raton Substation where electric meters are read and lines are isolated before throwing the switch in to tie Raton to Springer Electric. Once the long checklist has been completed and Tri-State gives the ok then the switch can be thrown to once again send power to RPS. At this point RPS who has opened all of their switches at the Plant substation to feed Raton begin the process of closing those switches to energize each circuit separately as not to overload the system and cause another power outage. Once the switches are closed Raton is once again in the light.