Underground lines can inspire sticker shock
Sept. 3, 2011 - Martin B. Cassidy - ctpost.com
STAMFORD -- There's an underground movement across
much of the country to bury power and other utility
lines to shield against widespread outages like that
caused by Tropical Storm Irene last week.
Despite record-breaking power outages in Connecticut
that left more than 800,000 state residents in the
dark in the wake of Irene, state legislators, officials
and Connecticut Light and Power said the damage is
unlikely to spark momentum to bury a network of underground
lines which are more impervious to damage related
to wind or falling trees, officials said.
As residents wait days for power to come on after
major storm-related outages, some New Canaan residents
suggest moving overhead power lines off poles and
underground out of the elements, First
Selectman Jeb Walker said.
After power returns and the potential cost of the
lines is discussed--sometimes millions of dollar
to the mile-- enthusiasm to bury the lines quickly
disappears, Walker said.
It's incredibly expensive," Walker said. "We're
not going to propose it though we talk about it from
time to time when there is an outage. The cost is
prohibitive and the public doesn't want to pay the
taxes for it. Frankly I agree with them."
State Rep. William
Tong, D-Stamford, a member of
the Legislature's Energy
and Technology Committee,
said several Stamford neighborhoods have considered
the possibility of underground lines to improve reliability
only to balk at the cost and disruption the migration
I think everybody would rather we were able to bury
them underground," Tong said. "The problem
is the level of cost and construction that comes
along with it ... It's thousands and thousands of
dollars per foot."
CL&P is willing to place local power distribution
lines underground at the request of towns or private
developers as long as they pick up the additional
cost of the work, utility spokesman Mitch
Installing the lower voltage distribution lines costs
about $3.5 million a mile to set up, compared to
$800,000 a mile for an overhead system, according
to CL&P's estimates.
We have many inquiries from the towns we serve about
relocating power lines underground, which typically
involve aesthetics and storms," Gross said. "But
once they learn of what it would cost them and what
is involved, they put those ideas aside."
To sharpen the discussion about underground lines,
Connecticut officials could fund an independent cost-benefit
analysis which could verify or contradict the exorbitant
figures quoted by industry officials for underground
lines, state Sen. Bob
Duff, D-Norwalk, co-chairman
of the Energy and Technology Committee said.
It would give us real hard data and it would be independent
and not just from the utilities or the groups that
favor maintaining overhead lines," Duff said. "I
think that a lot of people support undergrounding
in concept but the utilities say it is absolutely
The state is in the process of estimating the economic
damage caused by Tropical Storm Irene, and Gov. Dannel
P. Malloy has announced a program to be administered
through the Department
of Economic and Community
Development to provide loans to businesses to help
recover from uninsured losses.
Tong said that there has not been a study that weighed
widespread economic losses that might be prevented
by less storm-prone underground power lines.
There have been ongoing discussions that usually
ends up with discussion of its cost-prohibitive nature," Tong
said. "If it makes sense we can look at it,
but that being said, even doing a study in itself
is costly and something that people have to make.
If they want us to spend the money we could do it."