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.