Failed Portales substation underwent routine mainenance

Freedom New Mexico: Clarence Plank Equipment overheated and caused an overload at the Portales south substation on West 18th Street near Southwest Canners Inc., on Saturday. Over 1,200 people were without power until 5 p.m. that day.

By Clarence Plank: Freedom New Mexico

Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves says a substation blamed for a weekend power outage was last tested in November 2008.

Reeves said Monday that he spoke to the substation manager, who explained substations are on a five-year maintenance schedule. It passed in November 2008 and was scheduled for more testing this November.

The outage left at least 1,200 Portales residents without power Saturday for about 14 hours, prompting the city to set up a temporary shelter at the Memorial Building.

Reeves said the Portales south substation was damaged by an overload that burned circuits.

“They fixed it,” Reeves said. “We have dozens of substations around the area, but there could always be something. There are a lot of moving parts in those substations so we do have equipment failure from time to time.”

Power popped off around 3 a.m. affecting Roosevelt General Hospital, Green Acres retirement community, Portales Estates apartment complex and homes south of 18th Street Avenue D to Avenue.

“We have regular maintenance on those substations,” Reeves said. “When something goes wrong, we repair it. There is no way to guarantee that it will ever happen again, but hopefully with new parts it won’t.”

Eight to 10 people sought temporary shelter at the Memorial Building. Power was restored around 5 p.m.

The Memorial Building was open for six hours, staffed with an ambulance crew and two personal aides from the Portales Police Department.

Emergency Manager Keith Wattenberger said cost to the city for the outage was zero.

“It didn’t cost us anything,” Wattenbeger said. “We basically had on-duty personnel and a small amount of coffee and donuts.”

Wattenberger said the Red Cross was prepared to set up an all night shelter if needed and arrangements were made to move everybody to the First Baptist Church Fellowship Hall if necessary.

“We basically had a few people to come over and had some movies for the children,” Wattenberger said. “I wouldn’t think the Memorial Building generated more than any normal use.”