Spirited discussion expected as Thornton Council weighs in on Xcel substation

Posted at 8:41 PM, Jul 11, 2017
and last updated 2017-07-11 22:41:28-04

THORNTON, Colo. -- A proposal to permit Xcel Energy to build a substation at 120th and Holly could extend tonight’s Thornton City Council meeting toward the midnight hour.

The proposal has drawn the ire of many residents in the Skylake Ranch subdivision.

Xcel spokesman Mark Stutz says the substation is needed to improve reliability.

"The area experienced a fairly significant (five-hour) outage as recently as 2012,” Stutz said. "It was the type of outage that could have been avoided had we had this substation in place to provide additional options for power."

But Skylake residents say their neighborhood is "uniquely inappropriate" as a location for the substation.

"We are saturated with infrastructure here," said homeowner Christine Ashley. "We have the (four) radio towers, the gas line, a 10,000-square foot gas valve, set in our park, and the distribution line going through our neighborhood."

Ashley told Denver7 that if the Thornton City Council okays the 120th & Holly location, Xcel will then replace a 55-foot tall wooden A-frame tower on the south sides of the neighborhood with a couple of 105-foot metal towers.

"So we'll be book-ended and basically surrounded by Xcel," she said. "We'll be the Xcel neighborhood and we're not Xcel customers, we're United Power customers."

“It just seems like the ultimate insult to have to suffer the burden when we get no benefit,” said Homeowner Doug Stearns.

Stutz told Denver7 that the substation will improve reliability for everyone on the grid.

He acknowledges the difficulty of placing infrastructure in neighborhoods.

“It shouldn’t be easy,” he said. ”But this is the most vetted substation project we’ve had in Xcel history.  It also happens to be the one with the most support we’ve seen in a long, long time.”

The project link on Xcel’s website states that 70 percent of the people surveyed, during Xcel’s open houses, support the 120th and Holly location.

The Skylake Ranch residents say many of those who support the project are landowners who will benefit from it.

They said there will be commercial development nearby.

Xcel says the substation will be shielded from view with a wall that blends in with nearby buildings.  There will also be landscaping.

“Many people won’t even know it’s a substation,” Stutz said. “The power lines will be underground until they connect with the transmission wires to the east.”

Stutz notes that most of the existing infrastructure was in place before many of the Skylake Ranch residents purchased their homes.

When asked about that, one resident told Denver7, “We’re not asking them to remove anything, we just don’t want more infrastructure on top of what we see.”

Many are very concerned about property values.

Neighbor Robert Thompson told Denver7 that he bought a house on the corner of Newport and Locust last Halloween.

“I can tell you with certainty that we would not have touched that with a ‘105-foot pole,’ which is the height of the structure (metal towers) that they want to put in here.  We would have moved on.”

Stutz said Xcel has only one substation in Thornton.  He said it was built in 1992, when Thornton had a population of 58,400.

The population has grown to more than 133,500.

The Skylake Ranch residents said they don’t dispute the need for a new substation.  They just want it built elsewhere, in a neighborhood with residents who are actual Xcel customers.

“I hope that the Thornton City Council has the foresight to protect this neighborhood from being an infrastructure dumping ground,” Ashley said.