The Advantageous Underground Power Grid of Fort Collins


Rayne Bromley

RMHS’s very own transformer

Rayne Bromley , Editor

The city of Fort Collins has one of the most reliable electric systems in the country due to its power grid being almost entirely underground since as early as 1948. With over 99% reliability, its unique electric system presents a number of advantages to Fort Collins and its citizens.


It starts with Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) and its various power plants. Using coal, wind, solar, and hydroelectric power from several locations across Colorado and Wyoming, PRPA can generate up to 1,264 megawatts of power to share between Fort Collins, Longmont, Estes Park, and Loveland, Colorado. This– compared to the 317 megawatt maximum Fort Collins has needed at a time– is a lot. 


The company, founded in 1965, started with an entirely coal-powered generation system built in  1973. Later, they invested in wind energy for the first time in 1998, solar in 2014, and smaller contributors of clean energy across the two states over time. The target is to make the switch to 100% renewable electricity within the next ten years.


“Our goal is 100% renewable electricity by 2030,” says Adam Bromley, the Light and Power Interim Deputy Director at Utilities Service Center in Fort Collins. Currently, Fort Collins by itself uses 46% renewable energy sources.


Fort Collins’s share of power is distributed to its seven substations by overhead cables– one of the only portions of the city’s power grid that isn’t built underground. There, the power is stepped down to lower voltages by large transformers to be conducted by underground cables into the city. Essentially, a three-step process, over 8,000 smaller city transformers are the last stop before the power reaches your outlet at a safe voltage.

Dixon Creek Substation feeds RMHS its electricity. (Unknown) 

Because of the underground system, Fort Collins suffers drastically fewer and shorter outages than other power grids around the country. The cables are protected from wind, severe weather, and animals– so the chances of damage are low. Further protection of the cables was put in place by the “call before you dig” law in Fort Collins– making it so citizens call the number “811” to locate cables and their depths before they dig on their property so as to not hit one by accident.





Such a reliable electric system attracts industry and businesses that become key parts of the community and provide good-paying jobs for citizens. 


“They come here, and they choose to continue to invest in Fort Collins because of that reliability,” Bromley says, “We are very proud that we can attract customers like Intel, Broadcom, and Anheuser-Busch.”


Companies that work with resources such as computer chips, programming, communications, and other tools requiring constant energy flow find it critical to have reliable electricity. That is why Fort Collins is able to attract the business of so many of these well-known industries. All due to its insightful utility teams.