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Utility companies challenge “NIMBY” attitudes

No one wants clunky, unsightly industrial machinery in their back yard. Few people are willing to function without electricity either. Unfortunately, without substations every few miles, electricity can’t reliably travel to far-reaching customers.

Community Radio for Northern Colorado dubbed this conflict of wants and needs a NIMBY—“Not In My Back Yard”—problem in a recent report on a dispute between Thornton, Colorado, residents and Xcel Energy.

“They want to put a four-acre, 200-kilovolt substation right in the middle of seven communities,” said Casey Lemieux, whose house sits across from an empty field slated for the construction of an Xcel substation.

Lemieux’s neighbor, Chelsey Crittendon, is equally frustrated with the proposed construction:

“Why do they feel the need to build in any neighborhood, not just our neighborhood, but any neighborhood?”

Without enough substations, utility customers will receive wavering power—an issue that has already confronted Thornton, Xcel Transmission Planning Manager Betty Merzayi said.

“We’re already having problems with our overloads on existing systems,” Merzayi said. She added that Xcel has been trying to build a substation for the neighborhood for a decade.

These issues are indicative of a grid system in need of an upgrade. Bill LeBlanc, a senior advisor with E Source, hopes to improve the grid with smart meters, which he believes will spread knowledge of grids and prevent outages.

“They can see that immediately on a computer,” he said. “They can go out and figure out how to fix it.”


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