It’s storm season again – something tens of thousands of BC Hydro customers on the South Coast were painfully aware of last night, as they lost power.
It’s a regular occurrence for people living in the region, as Pacific storms blow in and knock trees and branches into power lines.
And it’s one that’s become more pressing in the wake of this summer’s powerful storm, which left some people without electricity for nearly a week.
That has some people wondering if it’s perhaps time to look at alternatives, like burying our power lines underground.
There’s no doubt that building underground is more expensive. It costs roughly $400,000/ km to build above ground, and $2-million/ km to build underground. But with the cost of repairing storm damage, there’s an argument that the costs even out over time.
Simi Heer with BC Hydro says at those rates, it could cost a small fortune to bury the system.
“Our system right now is primarily overhead, we have about 77,000 km of overhead lines in the province, and that’s enough to wrap the earth twice. Moving these lines underground would be very costly.”
She says even with the occasional storm damage, the system is generally very reliable, and that crews are usually able to get everyone back online within 24 hours.
Heer adds that even if the system was underground, it sill wouldn’t be fool proof. She says problems on subterranean lines are harder to spot, diagnose, and repair.
“Even if we did underground distribution systems, there could still be an issue at a substation or on a transmission line which could cause a power outage. In addition, underground lines do have their own unique challenges.” harder to spot, identify, repair.
What do you think? With the regular storms that batter BC’s coast, is it time to move the system underground despite the cost up front?