Avoiding power outages.

Why don’t more communities place their services, especially electricity, underground? Especially in areas where they often get snowed in, etc?
Is it just the cost?
This is a real question, not a criticism. :slight_smile:

I would say it’s the cost. Infrastructure is very costly. This is why huge area of the United States didn’t get electricity till the Great Depression program, REA (Rural Electrification Act) came in. Kentucky was the last state to be declared officially “fully electrified” in 1955.

Of course there are still area without electric service, they mean “in general”

Just like DSL or Cable. If there aren’t enough people, no one will build it.

Today business are often run by people who’s sole interest is to invest. They don’t care what they are investing in, they want to make money.

Utilities are highly regulated so the people with the bucks don’t want to be bothered with that. They take their money elsewhere.

This leaves small government or groups of people to band together to form a co-op to get a decent amount of utilities, whether it be electric service, or cable TV or Internet.

Most new areas (at least around here) do have most services underground. It costs more to install and costs more to repair when it breaks, but most folks consider overhead lines to be an eyesore.

I’ve lived in a lot of places with overhead lines and never really had much of a problem with power outages, so for a lot of folks moving all of this stuff underground would be a huge expense with very little in return. Many areas have two different electrical feeds so that if one does go out, they can switch to the other and you only lose power for a few seconds. Yeah, some places are better than others and there are some areas where the power company hasn’t maintained the lines well and doesn’t have good redundancy, but in places where I’ve lived these seem to be the exception rather than the rule.

You also have to have a certain population density for underground lines to be affordable. If you have very few people in an area, the cost of putting all of the lines underground far exceeds the revenue you’ll get from those customers. Unfortunately for people who live out in the country, the areas where you are least likely to have redundancy (just because the neighborhoods are spread far apart making interconnections impractical) is also the area where it is least cost effective to bury the lines.

I’m an electrical engineer and I always had it in my head that I would put a generator in the garage so that I would never be without power, but the power around here has been so reliable that I’ve never gone and done it. We’ve only lost power maybe three times in the past twelve years I’ve lived here, and only one of those was for more than an hour. I also happen to have a fireplace so worst case, even if the power does go out for a while in the dead of a snow storm, we’re not going to freeze.

If it is an issue for you, though, you can install a backup generator to get you through the outages. Just make sure you do it right. I’ve seen some folks take portable generators and just stick a plug on the end of them and stick them in a nearby outlet when the power goes out. :smack: Please don’t ever do that.

The biggest power problems are actually in the summer, not in the winter, and are mostly due to overloading and wouldn’t be fixed by improving the distribution lines. The northeast and southwest US are both barely able to keep up with capacity in the summer, which is why if one little thing goes wrong you can often end up with a cascade failure that puts entire states in the dark. Unfortunately, the only way to fix this is with more power, and with this much power you are basically talking about nuke plants or a huge honking coal plants. Nobody wants a nuke plant in their back yard, and nobody wants coal either because of their emissions. Then everyone wonders why we don’t have enough power. The environmentalists do have a point, though. These things are bad for the environment, and “green” energy just doesn’t supply enough power, so it’s not an easy problem to solve.

Yes, it is the cost. In Manhattan, there are no overhead wires. Even when there were streetcars, they were powered by underground wires through a slot between the tracks. This is not true in the outer boroughs, however.

In Montreal, there are few or no overhead wires downtown. But… there was once a power outage, probably nearly 40 years ago, that took almost a week and a lot of digging to find and fix.

Paris did it right, but that was nearly 2 centuries ago. They built a system of underground tunnels that hold all services: water, sewage, electricity, telegraph, telephone, internet, and, once upon a time, a system of pneumatic tubes that you could send things through nearly instantly to anyone else on the “pneumatique”. Of course, the more recent things were just added. But you don’t have to dig up the streets to repair any of these services since repairmen just go into the tunnels. I don’t know what all this cost back then, but I am sure it was worth every cent.

Incidentally, did you ever see a sewer pipe hanging from a pole?

The cost for underground can be significantly more if the geology is unfavorable. I live in an area where the topsoil is thin or nonexistent, and trenching down to below the frost line thru solid rock is waaaay more expensive than dirt or sand. It makes stringing lines on poles much more economically attractive.

Don’t give them any ideas!

Only when they are burned in effigy.

I’m an anti-nuke from way back, but with newer developements (ie pebble bed) I’m willing to reconsider, with more information. I wouldn’t mind a nuke in my back yard if that was a signicant environmental inprovement over present fuels.

You should do a search. We do this thread at least once a year.

And yes, the answer is cost.

About power outages? I didn’t see it. I’ll look again.
Every time it snows, I imagine.

Well, this time I searched back a year. There were some about outages and such, but nothing about how to avoid them. Especially nothing about putting distribution underground.
UPS devices and Tivo et al are sorta related, I guess. :wink:
And quite a few posters who want us to know that they can live quite well “Off The Grid”.

Jeez, do I have to do everything around here? :slight_smile:

Recent threads on putting power lines underground.

Why aren’t more power lines buried?

Power Transmission in the US

Above Ground Power Lines

What can be done about power lines?

Wisdom of Overhead Power Lines

Okay, I should have gone back more than just one year.
Something (We do this thread at least once a year.) threw me off, I guess.
Me, I love spending our tax money on infrastructure.

Rural communities are pretty good at surviving without power for a while. It’s not clear that you’d ever recover the sunk costs of burying power lines.

These are called a suicide connections.

Very true, but I didn’t say “investing”. Although jobs are at least some investment.
It seems that burial is only practical in new development.

I dunno. The danger of a live male plug aside, you can try to parallel your little genset with the power company. Just crank your voltage up till the wheel thingy on your meter goes the other way.
mangeorge is totally full of shit here. Do not try to do that.

Murder connection is more like it, as this is a good way to kill an unsuspecting lineman.

For anyone wanting to hook up a generator at home, please be sure to either use a proper transfer switch that disconnects your home from the powerline, or just run heavy extension cords from the generator (sitting outside, so its carbon monoxide doesn’t kill you) to the fridge and whatever else you want to keep running.