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  #1  
Old 07-25-2012, 11:43 AM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Should I be worried about a 345 kV transmission line in my street?

I learned last night that Com Ed plans to construct a 345 kV transmission line under the street in front of my house, to bring additional electrical capacity to downtown Chicago substations. It will only be 4-10 feet under the surface of the street because of the subway tubes adjacent. Now 345 kV is not your ordinary distribution electrical line; it's what is normally run cross-country on 70-foot-high poles. I believe that folks further south objected to a new aerial transmission line, so Com Ed will be doing the much more expensive underground option, running north from 55th under State Street and then west under Ninth St.

I'm usually not much of an alarmist on EMF and health effects, but the use of a narrow residential street is a little worrisome, even if it's just the effects on police radios and pacemakers. I'd really like to educate myself about this subject before I raise unnecessary alarms.
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  #2  
Old 07-25-2012, 12:45 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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345 kV underground cable is special stuff - there's a metal shield around the center current-carrying conductor, so it's rather like an enormous coaxial cable.

I don't know for sure about HV cables, but with regular cable TV coax, the shielding keeps the signal inside the cable, so I can only assume the HV cable's shielding keeps EMF to a safe level. There are many miles of HV powerlines just a few feet underground across the country, and I haven't heard of pacemakers or radios misbehaving near them.

Frankly, I'd be worried about more of the things under the street like old steam and gas lines.
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Old 07-25-2012, 12:57 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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I'm wondering what would happen if that thing accidentally shorted to ground. Giant explosion maybe? And would that short be detected quickly if the line was completely cut? The ground might not be conductive enough to increase the huge load already on that line.
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Old 07-25-2012, 01:00 PM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr Downtown View Post
I'm usually not much of an alarmist on EMF and health effects, but the use of a narrow residential street is a little worrisome, even if it's just the effects on police radios and pacemakers. I'd really like to educate myself about this subject before I raise unnecessary alarms.
I suspect it's DC, so no RF interference. Even if it's AC, it's only 60Hz, and nothing transmits on any frequency even remotely close to that.

And, FWIW, there has NEVER been a conclusive link to power lines and any health issues. There have been "suspicions" but there always will be...
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Old 07-25-2012, 01:09 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
And, FWIW, there has NEVER been a conclusive link to power lines and any health issues. There have been "suspicions" but there always will be...
You mean proximity to power lines, at some minimum distance, right? I can think of a number of health issues with a conclusive link to power lines.
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Old 07-25-2012, 02:32 PM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TriPolar
I'm wondering what would happen if that thing accidentally shorted to ground. Giant explosion maybe? And would that short be detected quickly if the line was completely cut? The ground might not be conductive enough to increase the huge load already on that line.
More likely would be an internal fault in the cable with the center power conductor shorting or arcing to the outer shield. This would be detected quickly by automated equipment. The power system uses devices called reclosers that sense faults and disturbances as most faults are temporary - a hapless bird or squirrel in the wrong place, lines getting blown around in a storm, etc., and there's no point in tripping a breaker and leaving it off if the problem is gone. The recloser will cut the power, count down a few seconds, re-connect and monitor conditions. If the fault is still there, it repeats the shut off, wait and reconnect sequence. Usually, these things will only do two or three reset cycles before leaving the power off.
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Old 07-25-2012, 02:46 PM
BubbaDog BubbaDog is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gotpasswords View Post
More likely would be an internal fault in the cable with the center power conductor shorting or arcing to the outer shield. This would be detected quickly by automated equipment. The power system uses devices called reclosers that sense faults and disturbances as most faults are temporary - a hapless bird or squirrel in the wrong place, lines getting blown around in a storm, etc., and there's no point in tripping a breaker and leaving it off if the problem is gone. The recloser will cut the power, count down a few seconds, re-connect and monitor conditions. If the fault is still there, it repeats the shut off, wait and reconnect sequence. Usually, these things will only do two or three reset cycles before leaving the power off.
That's correct, but usually a scheme that is used more for above ground distribution lines (2Kv to 25KV) and not so much for transmission lines. Transmission protection schemes might have reclosing but it would be based on something other than timing out. I would guess that with an underground line there isn't much use for the relay logic to include a reclose since it wouldn't be subject to the same kind of temporary actions as an overhead line like wind, lightning, ice, trees etc. The relay scheme would probably remove the line from service very quickly and leave it that way until somebody manually closed it.
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Old 07-25-2012, 02:56 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
You mean proximity to power lines, at some minimum distance, right? I can think of a number of health issues with a conclusive link to power lines.
Is that a joke about touching the lines or are you saying you know of conclusive links between living/being near high tension lines and health issues. If it's the latter, I don't think you can just make a statement like that and not back it up. Do you have a cite?

I've always hear the same thing as Beowulff. Lots of suspicious, no proof. But I think we're at the point that the people with the suspicions aren't going to let them go no matter what proof (or lack thereof as the case may be) to the contrary they're given.
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  #9  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:18 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Is that a joke about touching the lines or are you saying you know of conclusive links between living/being near high tension lines and health issues. If it's the latter, I don't think you can just make a statement like that and not back it up. Do you have a cite?

I've always hear the same thing as Beowulff. Lots of suspicious, no proof. But I think we're at the point that the people with the suspicions aren't going to let them go no matter what proof (or lack thereof as the case may be) to the contrary they're given.
Touching the lines, or electrocution from being too close. Building code, and the power companies won't allow houses within a certain distance of some overhead lines. But the health risk is always electrocution, or at least some pretty serious shocks.
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  #10  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:30 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by TriPolar View Post
Touching the lines, or electrocution from being too close. Building code, and the power companies won't allow houses within a certain distance of some overhead lines. But the health risk is always electrocution, or at least some pretty serious shocks.
But since this thread is about electromagnetic radiation and not an actual electrical arc to a person, I'm not sure your point is relevant. Besides, I'm fairly sure 345K can't jump 4 feet through the earth to zap someone standing on the ground anyways.
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  #11  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:52 PM
Joey P Joey P is online now
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Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
But since this thread is about electromagnetic radiation and not an actual electrical arc to a person, I'm not sure your point is relevant. Besides, I'm fairly sure 345K can't jump 4 feet through the earth to zap someone standing on the ground anyways.
I didn't mean to hit submit, I walked away from my computer and apparently hit it before I was ready. That wasn't meant to come off as snarky as it did. All I was trying to get across was that the OP is talking about an underground wire so electrocution really isn't a concern and he's really only concerned about EMF. My understanding is that there hasn't been any real evidence that EMF from high tension power lines causes any health issues. I can understand why people might think it does. I mean, that ominous humming, how can you not think it's doing something. I just wanted to make sure that when you said "I can think of a number of health issues with a conclusive link to power lines." you were jokingly talking about touching them, since it was a bit confusing.
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  #12  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:52 PM
RaftPeople RaftPeople is offline
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
I suspect it's DC, so no RF interference. Even if it's AC, it's only 60Hz, and nothing transmits on any frequency even remotely close to that.

And, FWIW, there has NEVER been a conclusive link to power lines and any health issues. There have been "suspicions" but there always will be...
But, the CDC review of studies does show there is a statistically significant increase in (cancer or whatever they were looking at). It was small and didn't prove causation, but there is something there.
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  #13  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:52 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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I wouldn't worry about any effects from EM radiation, but then I am not one to worry, especially given my hobby in electronics, where I regularly expose myself to some pretty strong EM fields, and at higher frequencies; e.g. a neon indicator bulb held in my hand can light up 6+ inches away from a flyback transformer (up to >25 kV and >100 kHz, many volts on an oscilloscope with the probe a good distance away), nevermind the strong fields from deflection coils and other (SMPS) transformers; when I was younger, my parents would complain about interference on their TV (before they had cable and I learned about EMI suppression) - on the other end of the house, yet I have thus far failed to see any health effects. Of course, at very high energy levels, like a microwave oven, you can literally be cooked (visible light, at several hundred terahertz, can do that too), but anything less than ultraviolet isn't going to be able to cause harm otherwise (EM radiation != nuclear radiation, except for gamma rays).
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  #14  
Old 07-25-2012, 03:58 PM
TriPolar TriPolar is online now
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I didn't mean to hit submit, I walked away from my computer and apparently hit it before I was ready. That wasn't meant to come off as snarky as it did.
Not a problem.
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  #15  
Old 07-25-2012, 04:04 PM
Gedd Gedd is offline
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The only worry should be the traffic while they bury it. Nothing else.
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  #16  
Old 07-25-2012, 04:18 PM
Gedd Gedd is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joey P View Post
Besides, I'm fairly sure 345K can't jump 4 feet through the earth to zap someone standing on the ground anyways.
I think the dielectric strength (is that the right name?) of air is only 3KV/mm, meaning it could do about 4ft in the open. Through anything besides the air, you would have to be much closer. So (in case you had other ideas) if you ever see that line exposed after an earthquake, apacalypse, or godzilla attack STAY AWAY!
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  #17  
Old 07-25-2012, 04:26 PM
beowulff beowulff is offline
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Originally Posted by Gedd View Post
I think the dielectric strength (is that the right name?) of air is only 3KV/mm, meaning it could do about 4ft in the open. Through anything besides the air, you would have to be much closer. So (in case you had other ideas) if you ever see that line exposed after an earthquake, apacalypse, or godzilla attack STAY AWAY!
No, thatís way wrong.
3KV/mm means that 345KV should only be able to jump around 4 inches or so (115mm).

Still- look but donít touch!
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  #18  
Old 07-25-2012, 04:40 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
No, that’s way wrong.
3KV/mm means that 345KV should only be able to jump around 4 inches or so (115mm).

Still- look but don’t touch!
Not necessarily; I can make arcs 2 inches long with the voltage from a TV flyback transformer, which is 25-30 kV for a color TV; breakdown voltage is highly dependent on the surfaces (sharp points have a lower breakdown voltage, and corona is often observed even with no ground nearby, also depends on AC frequency if AC, with higher frequencies leaking more current through stray capacitance; think of Tesla coils). Incidentally, the same is also true of lightning; only the strongest positive lightning bolts have voltages in the gigavolt range (required to jump the several kilometers of an ordinary bolt, positive lightning is much longer though, being from the top of the cloud).

In any case, with the line underground, even slightly damp (or even what one would consider to be dry; there will always be some moisture, especially underground) soil is a VERY good conductor at 345 kV, especially once the heat melts the soil (even insulators like glass become very good conductors when melted); for example, 1 megohm of resistance at 345 kV will let 345 mA through, which will dissipate 119 kW, leading to very rapid heating and thermal runaway.

Last edited by Michael63129; 07-25-2012 at 04:44 PM..
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Old 07-25-2012, 06:00 PM
jz78817 jz78817 is offline
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Originally Posted by Michael63129 View Post
Not necessarily; I can make arcs 2 inches long with the voltage from a TV flyback transformer, which is 25-30 kV for a color TV;
are you striking the arc at 2 inches, or striking it closer and using the ionized air to pull it away and sustain a longer arc?
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  #20  
Old 07-25-2012, 06:05 PM
Una Persson Una Persson is offline
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Related Straight Dope: Is living under power lines harmful to your health?
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  #21  
Old 07-25-2012, 06:57 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Originally Posted by jz78817 View Post
are you striking the arc at 2 inches, or striking it closer and using the ionized air to pull it away and sustain a longer arc?
Well, maybe not 2 inches to strike the arc, but more than an inch, but again this is from sharp points. Although this source says that it is about 3.7 kV/mm for point electrodes:

Quote:
"Spark length (cm), .10; Point electrodes, 3720; Ball electrodes, 1 cm diameter: Steady potential, 4560; Alternating potential, 4400"
On the other hand, this report (page 17) shows a (measured) breakdown voltage of 26 kV for a 4 cm gap (from a point source), which is only 650 V/mm (even when adjusted to standard conditions, it is only about 10-15% higher); and even for spherical electrodes (page 13) the voltages are much lower than 3 kV/mm.
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  #22  
Old 07-25-2012, 07:01 PM
Chimera Chimera is offline
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Aren't most European (or at least German) power lines buried?
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  #23  
Old 07-25-2012, 08:23 PM
TimeWinder TimeWinder is offline
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But, the CDC review of studies does show there is a statistically significant increase in (cancer or whatever they were looking at). It was small and didn't prove causation, but there is something there.
That review is listed on the CDC page here: http://www.cdc.gov/niosh/docs/96-129/, but I wouldn't read too much into it. As even that page admits, it doesn't account for the "welder exception." Welders are exposed to huge amounts of EMF, but don't have the increased prevalence of disease. High-power electrical line workers are similarly unaffected. "there is something there" seems very premature at this point; especially since it's basically a meta-study of a small number of other studies, which is infamously prone to data-gathering anomolies in any of the contributing studies affecting the result of the meta-study. "Needs more study" seems more like it; although reducing exposure for high-EMF workplaces is probably a good step even without real evidence. It shouldn't be a problem for the OP, though, who's talking about much lower levels.

As to the OP, the main problem I see is that there are a lot of folk who believe that power lines are going to make their children have additional heads and/or become supervillians. Thus, it's something you'd have to disclose on a home report if you were going to sell the property (assuming you're in the US, where you have to disclose anything that could make a potential buyer choose not to buy the property), and it might limit who'd be willing to buy it.
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  #24  
Old 07-25-2012, 08:57 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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There are different types of power lines. The OP seems to know the difference between a transmission and a distribution line. For the benefit of others, a transmission line carries very large amounts of electricity from one location to another, like from a generating plant to a neighborhood substation. Overhead transmission lines are usually not insulated, and operate at very high voltages (50,000 volts and above, typically). Distribution lines are used to carry the power around the neighborhood and such. These operate at much lower voltages, typical somewhere between 3,000 and 10,000 volts. Overhead distribution lines are sometimes insulated and sometimes not. Transformers are attached to distribution lines, and each transformer will typically supply electricity to three or four houses.

In older areas, transmission and distribution lines will all be overhead. People think this is kinda unsightly, and overhead lines swaying in the breeze are more likely to be damaged in storms and such. As a result, in most newer neighborhoods (at least that I've seen) the distribution lines are underground. Transmission lines though are typically still overhead, except in rare cases like crowded cities where running overhead lines isn't practical.

I believe the same is true in most of Europe. Distribution lines will usually be underground and, except in crowded cities, transmission lines will be overhead.

As for health effects, back in the late 60s or so some insurance guys noticed that folks who live next to power lines didn't live as long as folks who didn't (insurance guys get paid big bucks to figure stuff like this out, since it determines how they set their rates). Nobody except insurance guys really cared though, until the leukemia study in the 70's that Cecil's article mentioned. Then everything went nuts. That study was later discredited, but it gave folks the idea that power lines were somehow bad. This led to the idea that if electric fields from power lines are bad, radio waves from cell phones and such must also be bad (this was at a time when cell phones were roughly the same size and weight as a brick). At that time, there hadn't been a whole lot of research done, but folks were going absolutely nutso. People in charge wanted science to say what was safe and what wasn't, so folks used rectally generated numbers (i.e. pulled out of their a$$) and walked around with field strength meters proudly proclaiming what areas were safe and what areas weren't.

Lots and lots of money poured into research. Several decades later, we can conclusively say that folks who live next to power lines statistically don't live as long as folks who don't. We can also conclusively say that we still don't have a freaking clue why. Despite oodles of money and tons and tons of research, no one has been able to conclusively prove anything. Sure, there are studies that pop up once in a while and say POWER LINES KILL AND WE PROVED IT! but the problem is the follow-up studies don't actually prove it. To date, as far as I am aware, there has never been any studies that have held up to peer review and follow-up studies that have conclusively proven a link between either power lines or cell phones and anything bad.

Anyone who tells you any such effects have been conclusively proven is full of hooey.

It's hard to prove a negative, but health-wise, the huge mountain of studies that haven't been able to find anything is really making it look like there just isn't anything there to find.

So health-wise, a 345 kV line running down your street probably isn't anything to get excited about.

As far as radio interference goes, though, the news isn't quite so good. high voltage lines tend to suffer from corona discharge, which makes a lot of radio noise. I would expect corona discharge problems to get worse as the line ages as well. Expect interference with anything that uses radio waves, like your TV, radio, cell phones, etc. A pacemaker could technically have problems, but modern pacemakers are designed pretty well to reject radio noise.
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Old 07-25-2012, 09:39 PM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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Originally Posted by beowulff View Post
I suspect it's DC, so no RF interference. Even if it's AC, it's only 60Hz, and nothing transmits on any frequency even remotely close to that.
Why would they use DC? I was under the impression that DC HV lines were pretty rare and mainly used under saltwater.
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Old 07-25-2012, 10:02 PM
engineer_comp_geek engineer_comp_geek is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jnglmassiv View Post
Why would they use DC? I was under the impression that DC HV lines were pretty rare and mainly used under saltwater.
DC lines are getting more and more common. They always run at peak voltage, where AC lines have to be designed for peak but effectively all you get out of them is RMS. DC lines don't suffer from reactive losses like AC lines do (a very big issue for underground and underwater cables).

There are disadvantages to DC lines as well, though. An AC transformer is dirt simple. DC transformers are much more complicated (and therefore much more expensive). DC also has problems with switch gear. If you try to shut off an AC line, any arcing that occurs when the switch contacts separate will naturally extinguish when the voltage drops to zero, which occurs twice during every AC cycle (120 times a second for 60 Hz). DC switches require special arc suppression because the voltage is constant, which means you can draw a really long arc once you get one going.

The extra equipment needed at both ends of the line adds expense, but this is offset by the greater efficiency of DC. This means that there is a break even point. Shorter than that, and the efficiency bonuses are too small to be worth the extra expense of the extra equipment required. Once you go a certain length, though, DC becomes more cost effective in the long run.

As you've noted, underwater and underground cables tend to realize a benefit to DC pretty quickly. There are quite a few overhead DC lines these days, though. They are getting more and more common as the extra equipment required for them is getting cheaper, as this makes the break-even point where DC becomes more cost effective much shorter.
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  #27  
Old 07-25-2012, 11:02 PM
Mr Downtown Mr Downtown is offline
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Thanks. The research I've done today suggests that lines like this are put into continuous welded steel pipes, with a coolant gas surrounding the actual conductors. So it sounds like there's a continuous Faraday cage to limit corona discharge or inductive effects. Correct?
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  #28  
Old 07-26-2012, 02:25 PM
neuroman neuroman is offline
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With a little careful digging, this could be a great opportunity for you to get free electricity for your whole house.
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  #29  
Old 07-26-2012, 07:34 PM
Senegoid Senegoid is offline
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With a little careful digging, this could be a great opportunity for you to get free electricity for your whole house.
And you won't even need to install conduit from the main to your house, as you will be it.
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  #30  
Old 07-26-2012, 08:20 PM
jnglmassiv jnglmassiv is offline
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Originally Posted by engineer_comp_geek View Post
DC lines are getting more and more common.
Thank you, that is very interesting. Gotpasswords mentioned in post 2 that the cabling is like coax and I figured it would couple like coax: optimized and pretty efficiently largely regardless of environmental dielectric. But no, it looks like the jacket is for protection from local hazards and thermal conduction and that three parallel legs are run like any other transmission line.
This is a good site: Underground transmission cables

The intersection of transmission lines and transmission lines. Remember the time you found out the TLines course was NOT going to be fun and outside with lots of time on a tower?
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  #31  
Old 07-26-2012, 09:05 PM
Simple Linctus Simple Linctus is offline
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Originally Posted by TimeWinder View Post
As to the OP, the main problem I see is that there are a lot of folk who believe that power lines are going to make their children have additional heads and/or become supervillians. Thus, it's something you'd have to disclose on a home report if you were going to sell the property (assuming you're in the US, where you have to disclose anything that could make a potential buyer choose not to buy the property), and it might limit who'd be willing to buy it.
I'm not saying you're wrong, but this makes little sense to me. I don't see why a seller should have to anticipate every possible irrational thing a buyer may think. Do you have to disclose ley lines as well?
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Old 07-26-2012, 09:19 PM
Fuzzy Dunlop Fuzzy Dunlop is offline
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Originally Posted by Confused dart cum View Post
I'm not saying you're wrong, but this makes little sense to me. I don't see why a seller should have to anticipate every possible irrational thing a buyer may think. Do you have to disclose ley lines as well?
Depending where you live, your jurisdiction may require you as a seller to disclose certain stigmas that may devalue your home. It doesn't necessarily matter whether the stigma is real (your house was built on land contaminated with dangerous waste) or imaginary (your home is haunted). However, as far as I know the stigmas you must disclose are codified and I've never heard of transmission lines being one. An easement for transmission lines through your property would be different. I could be wrong though...
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