Monday, July 02, 2012

Burying Power Lines Not Panacea Against Blackouts

Once again, a large swath of the United States is facing major power disruptions. This time, it's the Middle Atlantic states, from New Jersey through Virginia that were hit by strong and severe thunderstorms that took out power distribution lines and are leaving more than 2 million people without power during a lengthy heat wave. Already, 17 people have died due to the storms and after-effects.

Some of those people might not see power restored until after July 4th.

That's unacceptable, but does it mean that burying power lines is the solution to preventing outages?

The answer is it totally depends on the power system and local conditions.

It is expensive to move utility lines underground, and while it might mean fewer power disruptions due to power lines being disrupted due to downed trees, it could mean even more difficulties during flood conditions.

Buried power lines would have to be dried and/or replaced, and that could mean even lengthier power outages.

To maintain the power distribution grid, a balance needs to be struck between burying major power lines and using overhead lines where appropriate. It also means protecting utility right of ways from trees that might take out power lines, but also burying the lines where flooding isn't an issue.

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