Friday August 28th… Dear Diary. The main purpose of this ongoing blog will be to track United States extreme or record temperatures related to climate change. Any reports I see of ETs will be listed below the main topic of the day. I’ll refer to extreme or record temperatures as ETs (not extraterrestrials).😉
Main Topic: Green New Deal Infrastructure…Should Electric Lines Be Rebuilt Underground?
Dear Diary. It happens every time we have a landfalling hurricane or a bad storm system like a derecho ripping through the country. Power lines snap with electrical wiring getting mangled into trees. The end result is electrical outages that can sometimes last weeks if not more than a month. The question today after looking at Hurricane Laura’s damage is would it behoove the nation to require power companies to rebuild or replace power lines underground with financial help from the federal government?
To finally get to an all neutral carbon world and maintain civilization, all structures need to be 100% electric with power generated from renewables. Probably the best way to achieve this goal for individual structures is to build microgrid systems such that buildings get their power from rooftop solar. If this is not done lines do need to be available connected to a battery hub where electricity is stored from either solar or wind installations. These can be traditional lines on power poles, which one sees practically on every street.
Obviously the weak link in this system is the lines of power exposed to increasingly more violent weather. Just today I saw this Hill article suggesting that most hurricanes will act like Katrinas in our future and are the new normal:
People along the coast, provided that their homes survive a hurricane’s direct blow, can’t live very well without electricity. The short range plan in Louisiana is to replace power poles and lines with the very same thing. On the surface this seems to be ridiculous since if and when another similar hurricane to Laura cones along in a few years residents there will have to go through the same ordeal, waiting for power to be restored. It would make more sense to have a big building project to put lines underground, or would it? This short article gives us the pros and cons for taking the pains to dig trenches for underground wiring:
PROS AND CONS OF UNDERGROUND POWER LINES
Like many things in life and business, underground power lines have both pros and cons. It is definitely true that undergrounding can improve service reliability, but the cost is prohibitive. The burning question for any electric utility considering an undergrounding initiative is whether or not the benefit is greater than the cost.
THE YING AND YANG OF UNDERGROUND POWER LINES
Obviously, I am all for any initiative that has the potential to reduce outages and improve emergency preparedness for electric utilities. Let’s take a look at the advantages of underground power lines:
- Reduces outages because buried lines are not susceptible to damage from high winds or falling trees
- Looks better aesthetically
- Generates a positive economic impact by reducing outage-caused downtime for local businesses
- Can be coordinated with road repair activity to reduce excavation costs
And here are the disadvantages that come to mind:
- Installing underground lines can cost 7-10 times more than overhead lines, a cost that would likely be paid by customers in the form of higher rates
- Buried lines must be protected by conduit, otherwise they are susceptible to shortages from groundwater infiltration
- Buried lines can take longer to repair because the damaged area is usually more difficult to locate
- Undergrounding can be risky due to the presence of underground obstacles or other utility lines like gas, water or telecommunication lines.
- Underground power lines would not prevent outages caused by damage to high-voltage lines or towers
As you can see, there is no clear answer here. For a local community flavor to this argument, read this article about the strife over this topic in Stroudsburg, PA.
The ultimate question is this: how much are people willing to pay for increased reliability? And the only way to find out is to crunch the numbers, make the pitch, and gauge the public’s reaction. And get ready for a fight.
For those of us who are fiscally conservative there are major concerns for digging trenches to bury power lines. Should burying power cables be part of a Green New Deal that would be very expensive as originally proposed? This should be seriously debated this decade. Perhaps it will be deemed by experts to eventually evolve to a microgrids system so that electric lines if any sort won’t be necessary. I look forward to any comments my readers may have on this issue.
Here is more information on Laura and its aftermath:
Here are more notes from Friday on the western fires and the heatwave, which I’ve dubbed Beelzebub:
Here is more climate and weather news from Friday:
(As usual, this will be a fluid post in which more information gets added during the day as it crosses my radar, crediting all who have put it on-line. Items will be archived on this site for posterity. In most instances click on the pictures of each tweet to see each article. The most noteworthy items will be listed first.)
Now here are some of today’s articles and notes on the horrid COVID-19 pandemic:
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Guy Walton “The Climate Guy”