wellen

Power Lines

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The Greenville News has an article today about the State Senate panel discussing the ice storm and it's aftermath with Duke Power officials. There is one quote that bothers me to no end:

Sen. William Mescher, a Berkeley County Republican and past president of Santee Cooper, the state's power company, told other senators that burying lines in developed areas is "prohibitively expensive."

"It's a matter of economics, in my opinion," he said. "It just costs too much money."

I have no doubt that it would be an expensive undertaking to bury the lines in developed area, and I believe they will hide behind this excuse until they are held accountable for the expenses these outages cause to the people and businesses that are affected.

A small business being shut down for a week could be disasterous. Loan payments and rent still have to be paid. Payroll and insurance still have to be paid. With no revenue, the owners are screwed. A low income family that is without power for a week could be financially devastated, not to mention cold. And if these folks work at a place with no power, maybe they don't get paid that week.

I say give them an option. Pay to bury the lines, or pay to reimburse their customers. I'll bet they bury the lines.

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I had never thought of this before but a few months ago, I had a plumber out at my house doing some work and was just chatting with him after he was "off the clock". Somehow or other we got on the topic of burying lines and he mentioned that in areas were lines are buried that they are not always marked correctly so people digging down deep to run say sewer lines, etc and that if you hit these lines when digging you can be killed by it. Just another factor to consider.

I will say my neighbourhood has the underground lines and it looks much much better than the rest of the liens you see just sititng up and around - but there's definitely a risk with them.

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This re-hashes the old thread somewhat.

What "economics" are they weighing here? Are they factoring in at all the cost resulting from downed lines during storms and the cost to clean up and repair these downed lines? Or, are they simply focusing in on the cost to bury them?

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I just don't see how it could be done. Think of the thousands of miles of lines that are running around the carolinas (just the upstate), all the streets, yards, sidewalks that would have to be pulled up and put back into place. The cost for new materials, hauling equipment. The interuptions for consumers, businesses, travelers. The project would be in the BILLIONS. And guess what, Duke power would certainly not pay for it, it would be all of us. Our bills would go waaaay up. Better to bury new ones as they are put in. If it is to be done, it could take years, perhaps decades.

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I just don't see how it could be done.
Me neither.

Take the very streets where it's a big issue. You know the ones...in downtown Greenville, where the sidewalks undulate because the oak trees are so immense and close to the road. And these people who live on these streets...the ones who get all apopleptic when the Davey Tree people come by to prune the trees... are they just going to sit idly by as the Ditch Witch renders the root system of their favorite oak tree...the one that their now-grown children used to rig with a tire swing back in the day?

I don't think so. Forget the money for a moment. Consider the fact that Duke Power would have to dig into root systems of the trees that now tower over its above-ground lines. After all, the places you most need to bury lines are the places where you're most likely going to find trees right on top of the underground right-of-way. If the legislature funded 100% of the cost, I'd still be hesitant if I were Duke Power given the histrionics and highly impassioned feelings people are going exhibit once it comes time for Duke to break ground in any given neighborhood. It's a headache and hassle I'm sure they'd be happy to do without/

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While burying the power lines everywhere is not realistic, I do think it would be nice to bury them on main thoroughfares (e.g., Woodruff, Haywood). It makes an area feel a lot more welcoming and clean. I wonder if the city of Greenville would ever undertake such a project?

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It makes an area feel a lot more welcoming and clean.
You've hit on the paradox of this "solution." The places where lines need to be buried -- tree-lined boulevards -- are more likely to invite significant damage to those trees that line said boulevard, and the aesthetic isn't all that bad to begin with (though it could get worse if the lines are buried and root systems are turned to mulch). It's mainly practical reasons that demand burying lines there...which has a good chance of injuring the trees and the aesthetics. It's in these locations that the economic equation shifts to being cost-effective -- but it's here where the aesthetic bottom-line is in the red.

On the other hand, in places where it would improve the aesthetic quality, there's less need to bury the lines. No trees. So the cost of burying becomes a bigger factor -- as it's offset only by the ability to say "it will look prettier." It's in these locations that burying lines is costly (particularly as they're not just digging through dirt -- there's pavement or concrete sidewalks that may already have a network of underground utilities to navigate around). It's these locations that drive up the average cost of burying a foot of power line. And for what? Beauty? The same beauty we're willing to sacrifice where we already have it?

It's not just money that comes into play. I think it's impossible, first of all, to advocate for one across-the-board position and remain principled. There's a balancing act here that many people, pro and con, are ignoring.

I'd like to see the Duke Power and the City of Greenville -- which got slammed particularly hard the last time around -- flag the places where tree pruning costs are greatest and the prospects for power line damage is most perilous. Then I'd like to see what the property owners in those locations say when they get the plan for burying the lines -- including an assessment of what it will mean to the trees in those areas. Then, let's see how receptive those people are to burying lines and, if they still want it to happen, let's assess the costs and benefits. But I have a suspicion that we'll get bogged down by other touchy-feely considerations before we start talking dollars and cents costs and benefits of buring power lines.

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I have no doubt that it would be an expensive undertaking to bury the lines in developed area, and I believe they will hide behind this excuse until they are held accountable for the expenses these outages cause to the people and businesses that are affected.

A small business being shut down for a week could be disasterous. Loan payments and rent still have to be paid. Payroll and insurance still have to be paid. With no revenue, the owners are screwed. A low income family that is without power for a week could be financially devastated, not to mention cold. And if these folks work at a place with no power, maybe they don't get paid that week.

I say give them an option. Pay to bury the lines, or pay to reimburse their customers. I'll bet they bury the lines.

I agree....the Power companies should either take some preventative measure to protect against the outages (ie. burying the lines) or should have to reimburse damages cause to businesses. However, they should only have to do the one that is cheapest. I'm just not sure which it is. There have been great advances in underground tunneling that now only require an entrance and exit hole, and they can usually drill about 50 yards per 30 mins given the right soil conditions.

However, a friend of my dads that is a bellsouth employee tells us that most of the outages that they suffer from come from people digging through the cables. I'm not sure how much of a problem this would pose for buried powerlines. Hopefully they would protect them more than phone lines.

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There are other issues affecting cost. Power companies can't just choose to bury cables along streets. They have to be given an easement to do that, and on existing neighborhoods, every single property owner would have to grant them a permanent easement on their deed to bury the trunk lines through their property. I just don't see it happening in established areas.

Second, if your house is wired to receive power from overhead wires, then you will have to pay an electrician to completely rewire the external service to accept power from a ground cable. If the house is older, it will have to be brought up to current code levels or the munipalities won't issue a building permit to do it. This can potentially cost each property owner thousands of dollars in cost.

It isn't going to happen except where there is significant redevelopment projects.

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So, everybody is talking about Duke Power burying power lines, what about Charter burying cable lines?

I doubt this burying of power and cable lines is ever going to happen. It would take far too much money and way too many years to complete.

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Wouldn't it be great if electricity could be "wi-fi". :D

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Wouldn't it be great if electricity could be "wi-fi". :D

We'd all be walking around with our hair looking like David Bowie's or Billy Idol's did back in the 70's and 80's. :rofl:

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I'll have a look at it, but I doubt they have the ice storms though. :lol:

You know, from a purely photographic viewpoint, the utility lines really ruin some otherwise potentially beautiful images of downtown churches, buildings, etc., as well as mountiain views heading north out of town toward Cherrydale. :angry:

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Wouldn't it be great if electricity could be "wi-fi". :D
Of course, while the aesthetic quality of life would go up, so would the cancer rate. Worse than that...what would we do about those illegal aliens who bring their blenders and small appliances in their cars, park them in front of our homes, and steal our electricity to make frozen margaritas?

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Of course, while the aesthetic quality of life would go up, so would the cancer rate. Worse than that...what would we do about those illegal aliens who bring their blenders and small appliances in their cars, park them in front of our homes, and steal our electricity to make frozen margaritas?

Yeah, but would they be willing to share with us? ;)

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...what would we do about those illegal aliens who bring their blenders and small appliances in their cars, park them in front of our homes, and steal our electricity to make frozen margaritas?

Are those illegal aliens or college students tailgating? :rofl:

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Are those illegal aliens or college students tailgating? :rofl:

You don't have to worry about that in Greenville, Furman students don't tailgate...it's kinda sad actually...

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I'm certainly no kind of expert in this area, but having moved south from Pennsylvania - land of snow and ice and long winters and lots of rural areas - I've never quite understood why the North can make it through horrific winters without losing electricity but the South cannot make it through one ice storm without being devistated? Perhaps it's not the above ground lines that are the problem? In my neighborhood in Columbia, which is about 20 years old, we have buried lines and it's nice, but we still lose our electric more often than we should be and during the big ice storm a year or so (or two?) ago we were without power for over 24 hours and I'm in a populated suburban area of Columbia .... personally (and I have no factual basis for this comment) I don't think they build things in the South with the future vision they need to ... housing with inadequate insulation, lack of gutters and downspouts, etc.. and I contribute it all to a "good 'ole boy" conspiracy! :rolleyes:

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...Perhaps it's not the above ground lines that are the problem? In my neighborhood in Columbia, which is about 20 years old, we have buried lines and it's nice, but we still lose our electric more often than we should be and during the big ice storm a year or so (or two?) ago we were without power for over 24 hours and I'm in a populated suburban area of Columbia...

All of the utilities are burried in my neighborhood too; however, the lines that feed the neighborhood (as is the case throughout the area) are still above ground.

Ice, as you know, is very heavy. Most of these utility poles are, I suspect, made from pine (especially in the south), which isn't the strongest of woods. Add to this the fact that most southerners aren't used to driving in such conditions. So, what the weight of an accumulation of ice doesn't take down, people who have no business driving on the ice surely will take down when they lose control of their car and hit a pole.

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I'm certainly no kind of expert in this area, but having moved south from Pennsylvania - land of snow and ice and long winters and lots of rural areas - I've never quite understood why the North can make it through horrific winters without losing electricity but the South cannot make it through one ice storm without being devistated? Perhaps it's not the above ground lines that are the problem? In my neighborhood in Columbia, which is about 20 years old, we have buried lines and it's nice, but we still lose our electric more often than we should be and during the big ice storm a year or so (or two?) ago we were without power for over 24 hours and I'm in a populated suburban area of Columbia .... personally (and I have no factual basis for this comment) I don't think they build things in the South with the future vision they need to ... housing with inadequate insulation, lack of gutters and downspouts, etc.. and I contribute it all to a "good 'ole boy" conspiracy! :rolleyes:

The difference in storms is three-fold. Temperatures, quantities, and short winters.

Because our temperatures are more moderate, our big winter storms typically make our temperatures hover around the freezing point... resulting in freezing rain. Freezing rain is rare in the north. Greenville gets it a couple times each winter.

In addition, Greenville gets almost twice as much winter precipation than many places up north, so not only are our storms more likely to have nasty freezing rain, but we typically have more precipitation. If our winter temperatures were about 5-10 degrees cooler, we'd have loads of snow.

We have short periods of frozen precipitation. As such, our investment in winter-fighting machines (plows, slag trucks, etc.) is comparatively small. So when an event occurs, we are stuck, literally. But because of our moderate temperatures, things usually get back to normal quickly.

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