Utility companies gear up for winter weather challenges

Wes Reeves, Xcel Energy
Wes Reeves, Xcel Energy

Diana Crawford
NewsChannel 10

Amarillo, Texas - With the next winter storm headed our way, Xcel Energy is preparing and hopes to avoid last week's power outage problems. The utility company had to get creative to keep the power on during last week's extreme winter weather.

Power outages in downtown Amarillo and eastern New Mexico resulted from faulty connections and failing transformers because of the unusual subzero temperatures and the exceeding demand for energy. The gas supply being cut because of frozen lines didn't help either. Wes Reeves of Xcel Energy says, "We were able to convert some of our units to fuel oil. They are designed to burn fuel oil instead of gas. We were able to ship some gas that we had on our system to other power plants and even push some gas from the Upper Midwest into our area to help us supply our plants. So really it was a mammoth effort and it happened very quickly."

One thing the Panhandle did not look to for help was wind energy. Wind energy provided about 3 million homes in other parts of Texas with power last week to curtail the rolling blackouts, as power plants struggled to keep the power on during the bone chilling cold.

But the wind turbines in the Panhandle struggled with the below zero temperatures and ice, and were not heavily utilized because of this.