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Plugged In: Underground Lines?

February 3, 2022

Q: Why aren’t all Walton EMC power lines buried underground?

A: When we experience a power outage due to falling power lines, an underground power grid seems attractive. Buried power lines have their benefits, but there are also significant drawbacks that keep Walton EMC and the entire U.S. electric utility industry from converting entirely to an underground grid.

Expense is the main roadblock. It costs roughly $750 per foot to bury power lines, compared with $70 per foot to install overhead lines. At over 10 times the cost, it would certainly impact what you pay for power.

Underground power lines are still vulnerable to the elements in some ways, too. Though they are protected from wind, ice and tree damage that can cause outages, buried lines are more vulnerable to flooding and can still fail due to equipment issues or lightning.

Underground power lines are harder to maintain than overhead lines. Walton EMC employees must use earth-moving equipment to access buried lines for repairs, disrupting yards and landscaping. This requires more time than climbing a pole.