Loveland City Council to hear analysis on electrical system infrastructure

The Loveland City Council will hold a study session on Aug. 14 to get a clear picture on the Colorado city’s electrical system infrastructure and undergrounding.

“We continually need to make upgrades to our system capacity in order to address and handle additional load growth,” the Loveland Water & Power Department staff said in an Aug. 10 memo. “Anywhere from 20-30% of our system is past or close to the end of its useful design life.”

The study session will provide background information regarding the current state of the electrical system infrastructure and provide some advantages and disadvantages of having the entire electrical system underground. The existing practice of converting overhead lines to underground is included in our current capital improvement plan.

Given the storm damage that occurred to the overhead system in 2011, the council requested to explore if there would be a benefit to accelerating the process of converting overhead electric lines to underground.

The city’s water and power department staff will give a two-part presentation at the study session. Part one of the presentation will cover the current and future projected state of the electrical system, concerns over capacity shortfalls and aging infrastructure, and the plan to address these concerns.

Part two of the presentation will give background information and an overview of our underground verses overhead electrical systems, address the benefits and disadvantages of accelerating the efforts to underground the remaining overhead system, offer options and staff recommendations and request guidance from city council on how to proceed.

The staff reports on presentations include: What is the Current Condition of the Electrical System Infrastructure and Should We Continue at the Current Rate to Convert our Remaining Overhead System to Underground.

Of the 595 total miles in the city’s distribution system, 480 of those miles which make up 81% of the city’s system are already underground. Of the remaining 19% of distribution system, 81 miles are within the city and the remaining 34 miles are in the Big Thompson Canyon.

The power department recommends excluding the lines in the canyon from the underground process, saying it would not be practical to underground that area due to the difficult terrain and the amount of rock.

“We do not have sufficient funds to finance converting the remaining overhead system to underground and follow our capital improvement plan. In order to proceed with an accelerated undergrounding process, we would need additional funding and additional staff to perform this work,” staff said in a statement.

“We estimate it will cost $130 million to convert the remaining 81 miles of overhead lines within the city limits to underground. Based on our current long range plan, we will not have sufficient funds to both continue our forecasted capital improvement plan which addresses reliability and capacity shortfalls along with accelerating the undergrounding process,” according to staff. 

Loveland’s current electrical system is experiencing some capacity shortfalls in which it is not in compliance with the municipal code standard. As of 2011, Loveland had seven feeders that exceed the 10 MW capacity limit.

“Due to our load growth, we project that in 2017 we will have one more sub-to-sub feeder tie above the capacity limit and six others approaching that limit which will need to be addressed,” the staff said.