Operational and Situational Awareness helps us make critical decisions more quickly and effectively. These include specific protocols for periods of high wildfire risk, such as “Red Flag Warning” days in high-wind conditions. We also monitor the National Fire Danger Ratings to understand local threat conditions and appropriate actions to deal with them. We use that information to operate our system to reduce wildfire risk and effectively respond to fire events.

We are constantly investing in our electric infrastructure and exploring ways to improve reliability, safety and affordability. In this evolving effort, new technology plays a key role in our new wildfire standards. These include devices that control the flow of electricity: relays, reclosers, fuses, cutouts and arrestors.

Recloser Upgrades 

We’re operating our system more conservatively on days when the weather creates higher fire risks. Under normal circumstances, reclosers attempt to keep power flowing through a power line after a fault is detected. Under high-risk fire weather conditions, if a transmission or distribution line makes contact with the ground or vegetation, those attempts to reenergize the line should not occur for safety reasons.

In 2020, Xcel Energy began installing reclosers with remote communication capability, which allow settings to be changed remotely when fire weather conditions warrant. When more conservative settings are in place, if an issue on the grid is detected, power is interrupted until a crew can assess the issue and determine whether it’s safe to restore power. We followed with a pilot program in 2021 to observe in real time how these changes affected our system.

Risk Model Enhancements

We’ve developed a Wildfire Risk Model to analyze our risk, inform the Wildfire Mitigation Plan, define our Wildfire Risk Zones and estimate the potential impact of wildfire within our service territory. As more data and information becomes available, the model will be updated to reflect our current understanding.

Work Completed and Planned

Identified need for additional reclosers

Initiated risk modeling
Investigate additional Transmission Assessments including conductor analysis, climbing and drones

Enhanced risk and wildfire spread modeling
Repaired or replaced nearly 300 instances of transmission damage to our system

Upgraded fuses and lightning arrestors
Initiated wire replacements initiatives

Replace fuses with devices that improve safety
Performed a distribution feeder protection study

Initiated substation relay upgrades

Performed a wind strength analysis of transmission and distribution structures
Enhance system protection using Advanced Distribution Management System’s operational capabilities

Implement “Wildfire Mode” on recloser equipment in Wildfire Risk Zones to prevent potential incidents

Develop and consider alternative operating protocols in high-risk areas to reduce wildfire risk under certain conditions

Improve response protocols and fire-safe work practices

Read more in our Annual Reports to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission.