Should the Northeast Bury its Power Lines to Prevent Outages?

After blasting the Northeast with 80-mile-per-hour winds, Hurricane Sandy has left 6 million people without power. Last year, Hurricane Irene knocked out power to 7.4 million homes, and a freak Halloween storm left 90 percent of Connecticut in the dark for almost a week. With so many storms wreaking havoc on our power grid, why not put power lines underground?

Fallen trees, snow, and ice are major causes of power outages, so putting electrical infrastructure underground means customers have fewer service interruptions. According to data from the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), between 2004 and 2008, customers with aboveground electrical infrastructure experienced 1.3 power outages per year, on average. In contrast, customers with underground electric networks experience an average of 0.1 outages per year. In addition, underground lines seem to cause fewer injuries than overhead lines.

Rajit Gadh, a smart-grid specialist at UCLA, says that even if residential networks were underground, some infrastructure would inevitably remain aboveground and be vulnerable to weather-related disruptions. Even in New York City, where most power lines are already located underground, an explosion at a 14th Street substation left hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers in the dark.

To read the full article by Sarah Fecht click here.