Underground Power Cables Too Costly, Experts Say

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The recent widespread outages from October’s snowstorm has many wondering why power lines aren’t underground and out of the way of falling trees.

LISTEN: WCBS 880’s Rich Lamb reports

The wet, heavy snow pulled down trees all across the Tri-state, downing power lines and utility poles, knocking out power for hundreds of thousands of customers.

But experts say installing power cables underground isn’t as simple as it seems.

The Edison Electric Institute, a consortium run by investor owned utilities, claims putting the power supply underground comes down to cost.

“In no case have state utility commissioners come out and said ‘you know what we need to put all these lines underground’ and the reason for that is that the cost of putting the lines underground is much higher,” said the institute’s Dan Riedinger. “Five to 10 times higher than leaving them above ground.”

But Riedinger acknowledges that putting the wires underground that run down the street and to your house would only cost about $10,000 more per mile in a rural area.

He cautions however, that the benefits in terms of outages is not as great as you would hope because many underground systems ultimately are fed by overhead lines.

What you do think? Sound off below in our comments section…

  • VY

    Maybe the main distribution lines into a town or neighborhood and down to the transformers that feed each road and street should be underground. The last set of lines on each local street might still be above ground. That way when trees bring down lines, it would only be a few homes taken out at a time, not whole large sections of those communities. That plus more diligent tree trimming to get trees away from lines should limit the problem. This ‘hybred’ answer might be more cost effective with great system reliability.

  • Joseph Cozza

    If the amount of overhead lines are cut down by 50 percent, the remaining overhead feeds become more manageable. Why does everyone need to buy a generator to overcome thw power companies shortfall? We should address the real problem which is the risk management approach that ALL major companies subscribe to. They are ALL cutting their workforces drastically to benefit the shareholders but are really just benefitting the upper management salaries. They used to cut trees close to power lines on a much more proactive way but that would COST them their higher salaries. At the same time they are increasing their rates by making it a necessity to buy a generator (If you can find one without being price gauged).Five dollars a month added to my bill for 25 YEARS will pay for my new generator and transfer box put in by an electrician ($1500.00). This does not include the cost of fuel to keep it running .We are now ALL in the business of power generation.

  • Rick

    It’s too costly now after the fact. Power lines should have been installed underground from the beginng. I’m sure at the time the cost of doing this was an issue so they decided to cheap it out and we are all suffering.

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