Should more power lines go underground?

Posted at 11:45 PM, Jul 05, 2012
and last updated 2012-07-06 06:49:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)—While most Central Virginians have their electricity restored, people are now asking if there’s a way to make the power system much more resilient against future storms.

CBS 6 spoke with one Richmond woman who says she typically loses her power when there’s a strong wind gust, but she managed to maintain power through this recent round of storms.

 “When the lights were blinking, I was like, please don’t let my lights go out,” says Victoria Lewis.  Lewis tells us, the last time she lost power; it was out for two weeks.

“I don’t know what happened, but, I’m glad it happened and we didn’t lose power [this time],” says Lewis.

Lewis says, she’d like to see her power lines underground to reduce her chances of losing electricity, especially because the lines in her neighborhood are surrounded by so many large trees.

“In a major event like this, we have fewer problems with our underground facilities,” says Rodney Blevins with Dominion.

So, why not do away with overhead power lines completely? Blevins tells CBS 6 that overhauling the power system in Virginia would be too costly. 

The State Corporation Commission looked into this very issue several years ago and figured it would cost $83 billion dollars to move to an underground system. That cost would get passed down to you, which would average about $3,000 per customer, per year.

Blevins goes on to say, the underground lines do have a downside. While overhead repairs may take an hour, underground restoration can take up to seven hours. “It’s complex,” says Blevins.

Blevins tells CBS 6 that the problem is less about power grids and more of what’s surrounding them, like trees.  He says the state and localities need to make sure they are properly trimmed.

Governor Bob McDonnell says the state will re-assess its strategy once cleanup from recent storms is complete.  “We're going to continue to look at how we can do better,” says McDonnell.