Official: Wind damage, power imbalance to blame for Portales outages

Argen Duncan

Power outages hit the same portion of Portales for several hours two mornings in a row this week.

“We are aware of the problem, and we are working on a long-term solution so we avoid this particular problem,” said Xcel Energy spokesman Wes Reeves. “And we do appreciate the patience of our customers and apologize for the massive inconvenience of having no power when you get ready for work.”

Reeves said a power line at Main and Commercial streets went down about 7 a.m. Monday, cutting electricity to 621 customers. He didn’t know why the line went down, but said it was probably related to wind damage.

Workers restored the power in phases, finishing about 11:30 a.m., Reeves said.

To get the power on again, workers rerouted electricity around the problem area. It turned out the load on the system wasn’t balanced after those changes, causing a breaker in the substation to malfunction just after 6 a.m. Tuesday, Reeves said.

There was more power demand than Xcel expected. Reeves likened the problem to plugging too many appliances into the same outlet in a home and blowing a breaker.

He said such an imbalance isn’t common, but the company is sometimes caught unaware.

Reeves said as many as 1,200 customers could have experienced brief interruptions of power service.

Power was restored about 10:40 a.m. Tuesday.

“And even after that, there were some momentary outages as they were working through their switching process,” Reeves said.

The power line has been restored, and workers were bypassing the failed breaker Tuesday afternoon.

Donald “Doc” Elder said his house was one of those affected.

“To be honest with you, it was my wife who had to deal with it because I was already at the (KSEL) radio station,” he said.

Elder said his wife sent him text messages telling him the power was out, back on and out again repeatedly. After resetting clocks and then having the power go out again multiple times, she gave up and left all of the clocks unset.

“That was my job when I got home,” Elder said.

Reeves said engineers are analyzing the electrical system to see how to rebalance it.

“Definitely growth brings about situations like this,” he said.

With new neighborhoods or with customers in existing neighborhoods adding such things as new heating and cooling appliances, the power company doesn’t always know of the increased power demand until it causes a problem. Reeves said it can be a issue in the winter in particular because of people using more heaters.

It’s best for customers to let Xcel know when they get more items that use significant amounts of power, he said.