Monday, January 30, 2017

Thornton Utilities & Substation

Thornton Utilities Substation Project to Bring Energy to Growing Population

Thornton Utilities - Energy Needs for a Growing Population

Two years ago, Thornton residents were protesting the proposed location of a new electrical substation. Xcel Energy’s proposed location at the time was in the Marshall Lake subdivision near 136th Avenue and Holly Street. Resident opposition due to concerns of property value declines and health issues as a result of the Thornton substation prompted Xcel to choose a new site. The new site for the $32.7 million substation is on a 7.9-acre plot of land on the southeast corner of Holly Street and East 120th Avenue.

It’s been over a quarter of a century since the last substation was built in Thornton, CO, and the need is clear. Nearly a decade ago the need for a new substation in Thornton was identified. With a considerable population increase over the years, the demands on the existing electrical infrastructure resulted in 38 power outages between 2011 and 2016, impacting over 130,000 residents dependent on Thornton utilities. The substation, which processes raw power to distribute to residents and businesses, will support the city’s rapid growth and provide a reliable and stable source of electrical power to the community for decades to come.

Concerns About the Thornton Substation

Xcel has been very inclusive of community input in the design and construction of the substation. Taking into consideration location, design, and aesthetic impact on the location, Xcel hired architects who designed Anythink Library Wright Farms branch across the street from the proposed project to soften the impact of the substation on the neighboring community. 

To address the visual concerns of the facility in the neighborhood, the footprint of the substation, to include an aesthetically compatible architectural wall designed to blend into the surroundings and enclose the substation, will be situated on the site in such a manner that approximately 3.5 acres will be dedicated to the community as open space. 

All power lines going into and out of the substation will be underground, minimizing the industrial look and feel of the substation, and any risk to property values that are impacted by substations with overhead powerlines. The substation will be set back on the property, minimizing the visual impact to the neighborhood. Combined with the architectural wall that will screen most of the equipment from view, professional, irrigated landscaping, mature trees, sidewalks and open space buffers lend a park-like setting, as shown in simulated renderings of the project provided by Xcel.

Regarding health concern impacts of the substation on the neighborhood, Xcel has addressed the concerns in an FAQ page on the Thornton substation website provided by the company. Xcel noted that experts agree there are no adverse health impacts from 60 hertz electric and magnetic field (EMF) exposure by the substation. They further note that while EMFs are considered a “Class 2B Possible Carcinogen”, other substances in this class include coffee, aloe vera extract, and radio frequencies emitted by cell phones, bringing perspective to the issue.

With any growing population, adequate resources to support the community must keep pace with demand. Such is the case with the electrical needs of Thornton. The new substation will not only satisfy an imminent power need, its thoughtful design, the result of community input, is unprecedented in its attention to providing an aesthetically compatible solution. How will this affect Thornton Gas & Plumbing? No one knows for sure, but we do need to come up with a sustainable solution for energy sources in the future. 

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