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Power outages caused by upgrades, other factors

City Centre business park tenants are raising concerns over multiple power outages in the last several months that have caused disruptions and scheduling inconvenience.

Xcel Energy officials say the outages are attributed to a number of reasons, including work done to upgrade substations in Woodbury and Afton.

Dr. Gary Schwartz, an ophthalmologist with Associated Eye Care located in a building along Radio Drive, said staff has had to cancel patients' appointments since each outage can last more than two hours.

Though the building has a back-up generator, certain technology can only be turned on without electricity, he said.

Schwartz estimates the building has lost power at least once every month this year. But Xcel Energy reports outages at that address at just three since last September, not counting the most recent storm outages of June 21-22 that affected 600,000 customers metrowide.

"It's been pretty disruptive," Schwartz said. "It's tough to figure out who to blame."

Schwartz's office has three doctors who see between 50 and 60 patients a day. There have been instances where the power has gone out in the middle of an exam, he said.

"We have people who took time off from work or arranged for their kids to be in day care," he said. "It's a huge inconvenience."

According to Xcel Energy, the outage in May was a short 10 minutes caused by a power switch issue. In June, the power was out at the building for nearly three hours due to a faulty fuse and just two weeks ago, the building experienced another outage for one and a half hours from branches in the power line caused by high winds.

However, numerous factors have contributed to power outages in the general area of Radio Drive, Xcel Energy spokesman Tom Hoen said.

"Over the last several months we've had multiple third-party cable hits," he said, noting that construction activity has clipped power lines a few times. "We've had several tree-related outages with high winds and other storms."

The only way to track the exact number of outages is to look up each individual address, and the only way Xcel Energy records outages is if customers call and report them.

Steven Shumaker is an attorney also working in the City Centre Professional Building with 70 employees, who are required to interact with clients via phone, email and Internet, often on deadline.

Shumaker sent his concerns to City Hall saying that "Woodbury is unreliable and prone to inordinately frequent outages."

The power outages have brought his office to a standstill at times.

"I am not referring to power outages associated with recent storms, but also to various power outages that have occurred for no apparent reason," he said in an email.

It's tough to pinpoint what exactly causes outages, especially when there are multiple causes, Hoen said, including incidents where squirrels were able to get into the power lines.

But he added the upgrades to the substations should increase reliability.

"Reliable service is one of our top priorities and it's unfortunate that we've had customers in that area that have been affected by multiple outages," he said. "They just need to know that we have done work on the substations out there to make sure the system is bolstered enough to handle their needs."

Xcel Energy customers who experience power outages are encouraged to call 1-800-895-4999.

Riham Feshir
Riham Feshir is a reporter and photographer for the Woodbury Bulletin. Her coverage includes Woodbury City Hall, Washington County Board of Commissioners and business news.  Follow Riham on Twitter @RihamFeshir for the latest updates.