California utility to underground 10,000 mi of power lines
One of the largest gas and electric utilities in the U.S. is planning to put about 10,000 miles of its above-ground electric power distribution lines underground — at a likely cost of about $20 billion. The motivation is to decrease wildfires caused by Pacific Gas & Electric company’s power lines and boost the reliability of the electricity distribution in California. The company pleaded guilty to manslaughter charges related to the deadliest fire in the state’s history in 2018. Fulton Schools Professor Samuel Ariaratnam, chair of ASU’s construction engineering program and an underground construction expert, says factors like climate change are making overhead power lines “a recipe for fires.” Underground lines will not only prevent fires but better protect the lines from damage from wind and ice storms, and reduce maintenance costs. In addition, Ariaratnam says PG&E’s project could provide utilities industries valuable lessons in how to overcome the many challenges of installing large underground distribution systems.