The U.S. Department of Energy has awarded Xcel Energy with a grant worth $100 million to improvize its work to reduce wildfire risks and ensure the resiliency of the grid through extreme weather.
The grant, provided through the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships program and matched by Xcel Energy’s $140 million cost share, will support various projects in Colorado, Minnesota, New Mexico, Texas and Wisconsin to enhance the grid’s resiliency during fires, severe storms and other adverse environmental conditions and reduce or prevent power outages, while protecting homes and forests.
The projects will help boost grid resiliency while adding fire-resistant coatings to 6,000 wood poles, improving equipment safety features in power lines and electric vehicle chargers in high fire risk conditions, moving high-risk distribution circuits underground and enhancing vegetation management.
They will be built on current programs using emerging technology like drones supported by artificial intelligence examining power lines for safety, wind strength testing, satellite identification of trees posing a risk and modeling software to predict spread of fire.
Additionally, the funding, dependent on negotiation and project logistics, will also support greater resilience for communities of color.
The company will utilize the funds to match an equal investment in customer-funded microgrids in the Resilient Minneapolis Project. The project supports underserved communities in Minneapolis by providing solar, battery and microgrid technologies to strengthen community resiliency.
The projects, expected to run through five years, will start design and planning in 2024 and achieve completion by late 2028.
“We recognize that the year-round risk of wildfires has grown, along with the severity of storms and other weather events that threaten the grid,” said Bob Frenzel, chairman, president and CEO of Xcel Energy. “This funding from the Department of Energy will enhance our ability to meet this rising challenge with decisive action while reducing carbon emissions and ensuring reliable affordable and clean power for our customers.”