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Utilities Bury More Transmission Lines to Prevent Storm Damage

Facing hurricanes and public opposition to overhead lines, utilities are paying extra to go underground

3 min read
Photo: New River Electrical
Buried Power: A crew from New River Electrical buries 800 meters of transmission cables at a substation in Connecticut.
Photo: New River Electrical

In the past six months, transmission lines have beendestroyed by hurricanes in Puerto Rico, singed by wildfires in California, and bitterly opposed by residents in Utah and Pennsylvania who want to stop utilities from building more.

Such problems have grid operators literally thinking deeper. Increasingly, utilities in the United States and elsewhere are routing power underground. Puerto Rico’s grid rebuild is a prime example: A proposal, crafted by an industry-government consortium late last year, calls for “undergrounding” transmission to harden a power system still recovering from Hurricanes Irma and Maria.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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