Sunday, February 1, 2009

Maybe it is time to bury the wires

72,000 people in Ohio were powerless due to our EXTREME snow storm last Wednesday. That is just in Ohio, the surrounding states, and the rest of the country, causes the number to go into the upper hundreds of thousands. That is right, over 100 thousand people across the country were without power and heat in the bitter cold of February. Add to that the fact that they are expected to not get power for another week. Maybe it is time that we start to bury these wires.

In the last year alone, there have been three storms (May, September, Now) that have cut the power to tens-of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of Ohioans. This is a major problem and something that we should start to work on. From generators going out to people freezing to death, we need to ensure that heat and electricity is provided to our people. So, how do we do this?

Well, to start, we need to decide if above ground or underground wires are better. This really breaks into three primary issues
1: Damage
2: Repair
3: Price

1) Damage
as we all know, it is quite easy for above-ground wires to be damaged in any sort of storm. Plus, they are also easy targets of drunk drivers. Underground wires are much harder to damage, and they usually are only damaged during severe flooding. In fact, even Katrina and Ike left many underground wires all dry. Clearly the above-ground wires have problems here

2) Repair
Just as it is easier for them to get damaged, it is much easier to fix above-ground wires. They are a quick and easy fix, and you can always pinpoint the damage location. With underground wires, when they are damaged, you need to slowly find the location and THEN fix it (usually by digging up a vast plot of land). Clearly the above-ground wins here

3) Cost
it costs 20$ to put in one mile of above-ground wires and about 100$ to put in the same below ground. This pretty quickly appears to be on the above-ground side, until your realize that in one year we had to replace them 3 times. Assuming that the average damage per year is just once, it becomes clear that in just 5 years it would be cheaper to invest in the under-ground wiring.

So, based simply on the cost benefits in the long-term and the lack of damage, it becomes obvious that we should focus on adding underground wires to our grids. Let's now look at the best way to do that...

We can assume that the consumers will not want to do this, as they usually look only at the short term. We can also assume that the private companies will not do it, as they get paid the same no matter what nd thus want the cheaper measure. Thus, we must look at the government.

So, we are now forced with accepting it from the government. It is clear that it is in the best interests of the government to ensure that their citizens have heat and power. Thus, it falls to them to make sure it happens. The government needs to step up and make sure that no storm demobilizes any part of the country. This would also help their budgets as they would not need to dispatch the guard as often.

The best way to do this would be simply to make a law mandating that all new power lines, and replacements for old lines, need to be placed under ground. Additionally, give tax cuts to any company that voluntarily replaces all lines within 10 years to an under ground system. This can be started in the cities and slowly move its way out into the country. This is a logical move and would help the state out greatly.

The other way to do it would be to say that any company that does not move all wires underground in 20 years will loose their permission to operate in Ohio. This is a drastic, and in my opinion, wrong, move, but it will also fulfill the trick. With this one, the government will be forcing the companies to switch.

So, we can all agree that it would be better to move the lines underground, but the issue becomes in how we do it. What do you guys think?


Kadim said...

$20 per mile? $100/mile? What?

Underground wires are enormously expensive, as this very recent example shows.

Ander said...

how about wireless electricity? the only reason AC was wired was because JP Morgan couldn't put a meter on Tesla's Wardenclyffe Tower so he scrapped the project. We burn insane amounts of fuels just to push electricity around the grid. Not including the power we produce that just goes unused to ensure demand is met.

Wireless electricity is making a comeback in rechargeable electronics and it is being looked at for peoples homes.

" well as the Tesla effect of wireless energy transfer to wirelessly power electronic devices which Tesla demonstrated on a low scale (lightbulbs) as early as 1893 and aspired to use for the intercontinental transmission of industrial energy levels in his unfinished Wardenclyffe Tower project."

Though I do agree that lines should be buried if we are going to continue to use them. We need to create more local sources of power generation and bury the lines though. Instead of these massive generating plants that waste insane amounts of resources.

Ander said...

Okay, not the only reason, but JP Morgan couldn't make profit if he didn't have a meter on the stuff.

Anonymous said...

ok ill agree to let you bury the wire but only if you get Julia Louis-Dreyfus to hang out with me

just a lil Curb Ya Enthusiasm ref for you, you prob didn't get it since you're too busy playing gaia "anime message board" online

Whalertly said...

that is what AEP said, but they might have meant feet. Your source says that it is an extra 1/5th of the cost to bury, mine says that it is 5 times as much. Either way, the costs after only a few years of statistical repairs makes underground better

Whalertly said...

i believe that there is a limit to how far that power can go and how much it holds. Plus, i am not sure if tesla ever built and actual working model

either way, we need to keep the same grid or make it better. I believe wireless is not reliable enough and is not strong enough to do that.

Whalertly said...


I do not have an account with Gaiaonline so i have no idea what you are talking about...

Also, arrested development was so much better

Ander said...

then read about the experiments. He did it. They almost completed two towers. The technology is coming back. If there is a limit on how far the electromagnetic spectrum can be distributed then why can we have all of these cell towers and everything else?

Transmission of large amounts of power has been done and is still done today with microwaves.

1893: Nikola Tesla demonstrated the illumination of vacuum bulbs wirelessly (without any wires connected to the bulbs) at the World Columbian Exposition in Chicago.

1996: Auckland Uniservices develops an Electric Bus power system using Inductive Power Transfer to charge(30-60kW) opportunistically commencing implementation in New Zealand. Prof John Boys Team commission 1st commercial IPT Bus in the world at Whakarewarewa, in New Zealand.

2005: Prof Boys' team at The University of Auckland, refines 3-phase IPT Highway and pick-up systems allowing transfer of power to moving vehicles in the lab

# 2008: Bombardier offers new wireless transmission product PRIMOVE, a power system for use on trams and light-rail vehicles.

2008: Intel reproduces Prof. John Boys group's 1980's experiments by wirelessly powering a light bulb with 75% efficiency.

Of course it isn't reliable. We spent $1 trillion last year on bombs and killing people and for our debts instead of figuring out how to give everyone in the world power. The technology was buried because it couldn't be profited from.

If you think our current system needs to be kept, you should learn about electricity, it's generation and distribution. We waste an insane amount of fuels just producing the stuff and an even bigger number is wasted just pushing the electricity around the wires. We are destroying the earth and wasting resources for profit.

You think we can take something that was as theoretical as a nuclear bomb and make it a reality in 6 years but can't take technology from 1893 and make it happen?

Kadim said...

I'm sorry, I missed something. Where does it say 1/5 of the cost to bury in my article?

I'm also sure that if burying the wires had all the advantages you were talking about, AEP would insist on it more often.

Barga said...

At Ander

I agree that we should invest and work in it. The problem right now is taht it is not stable and not powerful enough. Once that is fixed we should be able to. However, in the meantime, lets put stuff underground

Barga said...

sorry, i meant it is 1.2 times the normal cost (1/5 more expensive). Mine says it is 5. yours is helping my case

AEP claims that they don't because the people don't want it. But as I have never seen that option, I am not sure the people don't want it

AEP is paid no matter what, it costs them less to put em in the sky so they do

Kadim said...

Can you show me the line you're referring to?

Barga said...

Kadim, i think the line is not specific but implied. If it costs 10mil to install above and 12mil below, notice the 20% incrase

which means that if there is less then a 1-5 damage ration (shown that it is less) then it is more efficient to put them underground

Kadim said...

I didn't read it that say. It says the entire project is $11 million, and it would cost an extra $2.8 million to bury the lines underground.

Presumably, the cost of above ground power lines is included in the $11 million, but how much the above ground lines are is not discussed.

Whalertly said...

valdi point
my source said it was 5 times more expensive (some power country out of FL) to install the underground. This does mean that unless you plan on replacements more then 5 times there is damage, then it is better for the underground

Daniel Jack Williamson said...

I'm absolutely in favor of upgrading our electric grid and burying as many of our utilities as possible. I've always thought economic development dollars should be applied to highway and utility infrastructure improvements, and not to micromanaging how a few parcels of land get developed. Install a 21st-century infrastructure, and let the "invisible hand" (of Adam Smith writings) of the free marketplace determine how parcels of land get developed.

Kadim said...

There was a nifty Slashdot discussion on the underground/above-ground issue.

It linked to this report from the Edison Electric Institute on the cost benefit analysis of underground powerlines.

Key points:

*Underground lines have fewer outages, but when they do have an outage, the outage is significantly longer than above-ground lines, and so the advantage of fewer outages is lost.

*Underground lines are 10 times more expensive than above-ground. Page 18 of that report said that 10 hurricanes could hit Florida, and still above-ground powerlines would be cheaper.

*Maintenance costs for underground lines can be more expensive, because specialized equipment is required.

*Since installation and maintenance costs are higher, and there is no reliability advantage, the only advantage of underground lines is their aesthetics.

Barga said...

Kadim, make it like OSUs, make tunnels in which everything runs through (phone, electric, sewer, cable, etc) this way they are easy to access and we don't need to rip stuff up all the time. Sure, it might be more expensive, but the overall savings is better. If they are in this tunnel, the replacement cost is the same as above

Kadim said...

I suspect those tunnels, except in very high dense places, are even more ridiculously expensive.

Based on everything I read, I think there is no particularly way of making underground wires economically viable.

Barga said...

notice that Whalertly was talking about cities, where we could just run it near the sewer. Then, we have less invasive work and we could always have easy accsess


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