With more than 20,000 miles of transmission line in ten states, we have a goal to operate our transmission infrastructure safely, providing reliable electricity to customers. Educating landowners about best practices when living and working next to a transmission line is important to meeting that goal. The corridor underneath a transmission line must be clear of all structures and some vegetation to allow our crews to safely maintain and access the transmission line when there is an emergency, and also prevent possible electrical outages from unsafe items in the right-of-way.
The land underneath a transmission line is called a right-of-way. We acquire the right-of-way to build and operate our transmission facilities in a safe and reliable manner. In most cases, Xcel Energy has an easement on the property where the transmission line is located or Xcel Energy may own the right-of-way in fee. The easement is a permanent right authorizing a person or party to use private land or property of another for a particular purpose. In this case, a utility acquires certain rights to build and maintain a transmission line. Landowners are paid for the easement and can continue to use the land for most purposes, although some restrictions are included in the agreement.
Planting non-compatible vegetation in the border zone or wire zone of a transmission right-of-way will likely require removal. If a building or structure in the right-of-way caught fire, it could burn into the power line, taking the line out of service for an extended time. Additionally, we must typically refrain from placing buildings or other structures, as well as vehicles, campers and other items in the right-of-way that could hamper maintenance crews from accessing the line if an outage occurs.
The above example shows an incorrect use of right of way, building a shed within the border zone.
Any use of the property under a transmission line that is not permitted in the terms of the easement is considered an encroachment and must be approved by Xcel Energy. When a property owner would like to make changes to the land, plant trees or shrubs or construct something on the right-of-way, permission must be granted by Xcel Energy. In some cases Xcel Energy may own the land in fee that hosts electric facilities. Requests to encroach on fee-owned property typically take longer to review, are determined on a case-by-case basis, and could be less likely to be approved. Encroachment requests are reviewed individually and requirements will vary from case to case. To apply for an encroachment request you can fill out this application. View encroachment guidelines.
The Powerline Trails Act (HB 22-1104) was passed in 2022 to help raise awareness and create opportunities for public entities – defined as “the state, a local government, or a district” – to co-locate public recreation trails within transmission corridors.
When Xcel Energy seeks to site a new transmission line or expand an existing transmission line within a local jurisdiction, the company will (1) notify local governments of the potential for construction of a powerline trail within the transmission corridor; and (2) help inform the public entities of the guidelines for which a trail can safely co-locate within the transmission corridor. Powerline trails may ultimately be constructed by public entities after consulting with Xcel Energy, the Colorado Division of Parks and Wildlife, and landowners about the safety and feasibility of such trails, and after the transmission corridor is constructed. To co-locate a public recreation trails within an Xcel Energy transmission corridor, the public entity must follow the company’s Encroachment Guidelines (PDF) and safe practices (PDF) around power lines. Examples of existing powerline trails in Colorado may be found here (PDF).
If you have questions about what you can do in the transmission right-of-way, please email or call us with questions.