Bury Power Lines? Too Expensive

After Irene, the idea of burying power lines was bandied about. As I recall, the cost of such an endeavor was a major disincentive. Here’s some hard numbers from Popular Mechanics:

80 percent of our power lines are located aboveground, and the main reason for that is cost. “It’s tremendously expensive to bury power lines,” says Mark Garvin, president of the Tree Care Industry Association, whose members are often hired to clean up fallen trees after a big storm.
It can be somewhat affordable to use underground power cables when you’re starting from scratch, he says; developers building new housing tracts can install buried power cables alongside fiberoptics lines and water systems.
But retrofitting is much pricier. “If you’re talking about a built environment where the lines are already up and you’d have to dig through peoples’ lawns and driveways, it becomes prohibitively expensive,” Garvin says.
For example, in a new suburban neighborhood, installing ordinary overhead power lines costs about $194,000 per mile on average. Installing underground power lines would cost $571,000 per mile. And to retrofit an older suburban neighborhood with underground lines, the costs climb up to an average of $724,000 per mile.
For high-voltage transmission lines—the thick cables typically slung between towers that carry electricity across long distances—new underground installations can cost as much as $23 million per mile. Those costs get deflected to the consumer.

Emphasis added. ‘Nuff said.

0 0 votes
Article Rating
Notify of
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
10 years ago

It’s a shame that the utilities aren’t coordinated with Public Works more in the cities. There’s been a four-foot wide trench in my street for a month now as they lay in new water lines. This would be a perfect opportunity to replace the aging gas lines, update the sewer to EPA standards, install three empty conduits for electricity, data, and ‘something in the future’, then re-grade and re-pave the street.
Back in the Real World, I suspect that the new water will be installed, then a sub-standard ‘patch’ will be laid down, turning the street into a lumpy, un-plowable mess. In a few years they’ll dig it up and do the same to replace the gas line, then a few more years and they’ll do the sewer.

10 years ago

Those are average figures. Can you imagine what they would be in RI once the unions and politicians got involved?

Warrington Faust
Warrington Faust
10 years ago

For what this is worth. After Irene,National Grid was replacing poles on their lines abutting some of my property (they are exempt from wetlands regulations). I got into a conversation with a “middle shot” from NG and talked about burying the lines. NG, being a European company, is accustomed to buried lines. They would be in favor of doing it, but, the cost.
I lived in Brookline, MA, for several years, they have required buried utility lines since their inception. It much improves the appearance of urban neighborhoods. Doesn’t College Hill have underground utilities?

Show your support for Anchor Rising with a 25-cent-per-day subscription.