Underground power line feasibility
Steve Taranovich - February 6, 2013
Transmission power lines, power underground, transmission power line ground wires. There is, of course, the huge cost in implementing this type of change, but “selective” burying of underground lines might help as well as the possibility of running transmission power line grounds underground in icy areas to prevent faults and widespread outages.
In light of the enormous costs to businesses and homeowners that were a result of power losses during and after the storm and greatly delayed power restoration especially by LIPA on Long Island, NY rate payers might be more open to some additional cost associated with these efforts.
Burying power lines is not cheap. A 2009 Edison Electric Institute study said the cost would be $1M per mile! This is mostly due to converting existing lines running above ground. Ideas such as pairing undergrounding with road expansion efforts or neighborhood projects involving roadway reconstruction or large-scale water and sewer line replacements could be more cost effective.
There is even a “Power underground” nonprofit that promotes burying lines who is trying to raise money for a study of the costs and benefits.
But we, as engineers, are more concerned with the technical challenges to burying power lines and/or transmission power line grounds.