How The RFV Keeps the Lights On

We’ve got a long list of ways you can use less energy, but a 72-hour power outage doesn’t make the cut. A blackout of that scale was a real threat during the early days of the Lake Christine Fire. Crews from Holy Cross Energy and Xcel Energy, two of the electric utilities serving our region, were working hard to keep the power flowing. The fire may be contained, but the utilities are still working around-the-clock to recover from the damage and to create a stronger, more resilient electric grid.

Source: Holy Cross Energy*

The blackout-scare got me thinking how easy it is to take electricity for granted. A largely invisible — and totally fascinating — system delivers energy from far-flung places right to our homes. For most of us that energy comes from a coal power plant chugging away in Pueblo, solar panels on the western slope, and wind turbines harnessing renewable resources on the eastern plains.

So how does this energy get to us? Think of the electric grid like our system of roads. We’ve got highways that allow cars to travel long distances at high-speeds. These are like the transmission lines, which move electrons at high voltages. Distribution lines, the neighborhood streets in this metaphor, move energy at lower speeds to individual buildings. Before the electrons move from the transmission line to the distribution lines, the voltage needs to be seriously ramped down. Enter the sub-station, a facility that is the key connection point to control and deliver electricity.

One such substation was located right in the heart of the Lake Christine fire’s path. Three of the four transmission lines leading into it were lost in the fire, leaving just one line pumping electricity to the upper Roaring Fork Valley. Were it not for the commitment and care of firefighters, that line could have fallen too, leaving the upper valley without power for up to three days.  

This close-call is a clear demonstration of the need for an even more resilient grid, one that can stand up to threats and bounce back from disruption faster. That’s why Holy Cross Energy is actively engaging in dialogues on how to continue to keep the lights on, even during threats to our grid like wildfires.

Our changing climate is resulting in warmer temperatures and shrinking snowpack — a recipe for tinderbox conditions. Of course wildfires are part of the natural ecosystem, but warmer and drier conditions set the stage for longer wildfire seasons and bigger wildfires.

Luckily, we’ve got a chance to act. Together, we can make sure the impacts of climate change don’t get much worse than they are now. We can control how much greenhouse gasses we emit. And we at CORE want to help you. Since 2011, we’ve worked with over 5,000 home and business owners in the Roaring Fork Valley to reduce 13,269 metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. How can we work with you?   

From all of us at CORE, a heartfelt “thank you” to the linemen, engineers and utility staff, along with the firefighters and countless other first responders, who worked tirelessly to protect our community. And it’s not over yet: recovery by the Holy Cross staff is in full-swing and will be for a few more months.

*Holy Cross Energy crews are hard at work  fixing transmission lines damaged in the Lake Christine Fire. 

By |2018-09-17T15:54:19+00:00September 12th, 2018|Blog Feed|

About the Author:

In her role as Community Sustainability Manager at CORE, Sarah Gruen helps individuals, neighborhoods, and municipalities across the Roaring Fork Valley reduce their carbon emissions. Just as climate change affects everyone, Sarah believes that climate action will benefit everyone. In her writing, Sarah reports on our community’s home-grown solutions and the real impact they have on the world. She wants to make sure that everyone has the knowledge to drive powerful change!