Unprecedented storms raise questions about undergrounding Houston’s power lines

(UI) – Five days after a severe storm hit Houston earlier in May, over 100,000 residents remain without power. Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo mentioned it could take weeks to restore power in some neighborhoods despite efforts from Houston Mayor John Whitmire, who brought in outside workers to assist.

The complexity of the damage, which includes not only utility poles but also overhead connections between transformers, has raised questions about burying power lines underground to prevent future outages.

Currently, Houston has extensive underground distribution and transmission lines, but the high costs and challenges associated with burying more lines, particularly in developed areas and flood-prone regions, are significant obstacles.

Experts like Texas A&M engineer Don Russell and former Public Utilities Commission of Texas chairman Peter Lake highlight the prohibitive costs, estimated at $1 million per mile, and the difficulties in repairing underground lines.

Additionally, subsurface flooding in Houston could further complicate the maintenance of underground powerlines, as demonstrated by the experiences of other states such as North Carolina, which found the cost and time required to bury their entire power distribution system impractical.

Overall, while underground power lines offer some benefits, such as reduced outages during storms, the financial and logistical challenges make widespread implementation difficult.

This story was orginially reported by Click2Houston.

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