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Saturday, November 5, 2011

A solution that ain’t gonna happen

The October snowstorm took down a lot of power lines. Thousands of people are still in the dark. Some of the newscasters commented that putting power lines back up on poles puts them at risk all over again. Falling trees and other hazards will take them down again. It’s only a matter of time.

One solution is to put all the power lines underground. That ain’t gonna happen. Some neighborhoods and developments do have lines underground. The time to do it is during new construction. Water, sewage, gas, and cable are being buried. Might as well bury power at the same time.

Areas with underground wires are less prone to outages. Of course, most likely the main supply lines are above ground. When those go down, power is going out anyway. It does eliminate much of the house by house repair work.

Most lines are on poles. There is a huge investment in that legacy system. My guess is that it’s still cheaper to repair the system than to replace it. It’s not like you can just dig a ditch and put the old overhead lines in the ground. They aren’t designed for it. All new wire would have to be used. Imagine what that would do to electric bills.

Funds are not available to make the system more robust. As it is, many power companies are running with a lot fewer personal. That’s one of the reasons it’s taking so long to repair the storm damage. Companies have few repair crews and rely on crews from other areas to supplement in an emergency. It works well enough when the damage is localized. When the damage is widespread, there are no free crews to assist other locations. They are busy enough with their own problems and could use help themselves.

Individuals can expect longer and more frequent outages. Deal with it. Have a plan to survive on your own. Alternative energy systems are nice, but if you can’t afford them, you still have options. It’s surprising how many people don’t even have basics like warm sleeping bags and cold weather clothes. I’ve heard of people who couldn’t figure out they could use a frying pan on their propane grill so they didn’t cook anything. Other people threw out all the food in their refrigerator because the power went out. Never mind that they are surrounded by snow and ice that could turn their refrigerator into a big cooler. Sometimes it’s as simple as moving food into an unheated garage.

Do a bit of thinking and planning ahead of time. That way when a disaster hits you can act instead of trying to figure out what to do in a stressful situation. The grid is susceptible to many threats and timely repair is not a guarantee. Don’t wait for the power companies to solve this for you. They don’t have the funds, equipment, personal, or inclination to harden the system. You will be on your own -maybe for hours or days, but perhaps much much longer.



  1. Good post. Common sense is a rare commodity.

  2. ..I have not had a power outage in 3 years! hehe..I agree with you..too much money to invest to make the system work properly..especially when they are owned by private industry!