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PG&E Will Bury 10k Miles of Power Lines So They Don't Spark Wildfires

6 days ago

Created a post 353 points @boulos

PG&E Will Bury 10k Miles of Power Lines So They Don't Spark Wildfires

@goler 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Are the associated costs passed to ratepayers at cost or is there some allowance for a positive investment return for PG&E shareholders?

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@boringg 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I assume the liability costs far outweigh costs to upgrade/operational costs. Likely will ratebase a bunch of this work as well. That and they might just get kicked of business by the CPUC if they didn't manage their risk profiles more effectively.

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@kumarski 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

California might need to limit the extent to which it:

- lets environmentalists file viable injunctions against logging on federal lands

- prohibits or greatly limits grazing

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@kumarvvr 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

We are beginning to see the real costs of Global warming, the exact thing activists were bull horning about and the same thing corporations were denying.

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@phendrenad2 3 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Seems like it would be cheaper to just monitor transmission lines more closely. Detect sparks and shut off the affected lines before they have time to ignite brush. Maybe a job for cameras and machine learning?

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@account4mypc 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Off topic, but how do underground power lines stay cool? I always thought long distance powerlines got really hot.

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@stevenalowe 4 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

...again.

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@giantg2 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

So what burial equipment or service providers do we buy calls on?

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@morpheos137 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I don't understand why it is not just cheaper to clear the above ground rights of way. There are multiple reasons why transmission lines are not typically underground. The 240 from the pole to the house sure. The 240k from the plant to your local substation not so much.

Subterrainian cables are more expensive and less energy efficient than aerials. High capacitive losses, higher maintenance and installation costs, more expensive shielding and jacketing materials needed.

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@thedougd 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Take the opportunity to burry empty conduit with it and lease it to telcos.

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@repiret 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I was under the impression that the higher dielectric permittivity of soil made it impractical to bury AC transmission lines. Are they switching to DC while they're at it? Is there some other solution? Are the problems caused by high permittivity overblown?

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@xyzzy21 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

This will at least relieve PG&E from responsibility of causing wild fires.

BUT it won't stop wild fires if forest maintenance continues to remain unfunded by the California state government!

Putting lines underground definitely will also increase maintenance costs - that's why overhead lines get used in the first place. So electricity rates will remain higher as well.

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@rexreed 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

"Great they are doing this" but passing the cost on to their customers, who will foot the bill for it. So maybe you should thank the PG&E customers who will end up paying for it.

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@titzer 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Meanwhile, in Germany, they've been burying powerlines for over a century so the entire country doesn't look like ass.

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@rmason 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I have what I think is a legitimate question. Wouldn't it be an order of magnitude cheaper just to clear all the trees 120 feet either side of the power line? Plant the cleared land to alfalfa and solicit bids from farmers to harvest it every year.

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@hestefisk 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

We did this in Denmark many, many years ago. It is also significantly cheaper to maintain as you no longer need to manage vegetation around the powerlines, perform pole / cross-arm inspection etc. In some countries the main hesitation to underground cabling for transmission lines has been up front cost as well as unions (=less maintenance, less work).

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@xtat 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

PG&E is a criminal enterprise- no love until they restructure from the top down.

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@ttul 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

It’s almost as if there needs to be some form of tax on carbon emissions to help pay for mitigation of the effects of climate change.

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@breck 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Love it! My vision of the future has all power lines buried. Mostly thinking in the cities but fire prevention is a plus as well.

If anyone has any leads on startups or innovators in the tunneling space please share or each out!

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@ManBlanket 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Are we just going to ignore the fact wildfires are a natural occurrence and the entire reason we're experiencing catastrophic wildfires now is from decades of obsessively preventing every fire? Not saying we should go around creating fire hazards but compared to efforts to mitigate fuel overload by thinning and controlled burns, burying some power lines is a drop in a bucket barely worth mentioning. Utility corporations don't do things out of the kindness of their hearts. Guarantee PG&E are doing this for some kind of maintenance, tax, social, or litigious incentive. It certainly has more to do with the bottom line and their PR department is trying to spin it as some altruistic BS. Why are we jerking them off over this when if California's forests were properly managed a small risk of fire wouldn't be a concern, and in many cases may be a boon to the ecosystem?

Piss take, I know, but nature is pressing her reset button and it's our fault. Let's not act like PG&E has anything to do with it.

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@jbverschoor 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Almost everything is in the ground in the Netherlands.

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@Google234 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

The $30 billion in unemployment benefits that California lost to fraud to could have completely solved this crisis…

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@dthunder 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

We're taking a different approach in Australia (the state of Victoria specifically), and not only are we replacing bare wire overheads with buried cables [0], we are also implementing Rapid Earth Fault Current Limiter (REFCL) technology to lower the risk of bushfires due to downed wires. [1]

When powerlines come into contact with the ground or a tree, arcing can occur. If the line remains live and continues arcing, the risk of fire is quite high.

REFCL tech works by detecting the phase-to-earth faults that occur when a one of the three-phase powerlines breaks and falls to the ground. REFL instantly reduces the voltage on the fallen line, and boosts the voltage on the other two phases. REFCL will then test the faulted line after a few seconds, and if the fault was intermittent full service is restored. If not, the whole line is removed from service to prevent fires and make the line safe to work on.

On Total Fire Ban days (very high risk of fire due to weather conditions), the REFCL settings operate at increased sensitivity.

There's a requirement in Victoria that by 2023 all high risk zone substations have to install REFCL technology, and all HV customers connected to those zone subs have to be REFCL compliant (their equipment must be able to handle the over-voltages that occur during REFCL operation).

[0] https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/electricity/powerline-replacem...

[1] https://www.energy.vic.gov.au/safety-and-emergencies/powerli...

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@rapjr9 3 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I wonder if robots could help. Design some to go through the forests and mulch all the deadwood. They could work in geographic bands to create large fire breaks so the entire forest floor would not have to be mulched. There would be some environmental effects I'm sure (insects, mice, etc would get mulched as well) but that seems better than the devastation a fire causes. This seems like a limited enough problem that current technology could handle it with some human supervision in the field.

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@wombatpm 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

When you look at their track record with buried gas lines, I’m not sure this will be the safety fix they think it will be

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@thedougd 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Some coastal communities and islands in North Carolina took this route. In addition to beautification, they're more resilient to storms and hurricanes.

https://www.starnewsonline.com/article/NC/20071122/News/6051...

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@Trias11 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

That's why i left CA.

Hard pressed to find more fraudulent state.

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@abeppu 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

How do other places with dry forested areas deal with this? Are there similar regions from which California should be learning?

Also, if we get a major earthquake, are they going to have to dig all the lines up again?

Also, can we just note how crazy it is that this company blew up a neighborhood, burned down a town, was convicted in these separate incidents, and is still allowed to have a monopoly on power for a broad region? Why are corporate convicts apparently treated so well, but natural persons who are convicted are treated so poorly?

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@chongli 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

I have a question I haven’t seen anyone address so far: how much can we expect this to reduce the frequency of wildfires? Intuitively, to me, the effect would seem to be negligible. All of the conditions for wildfires will remain in place. It’ll simply be something else that lights the spark. If it’s not power lines it’ll be lightning.

So then to follow up: what is the point? To deflect blame from PGE? And who pays for it?

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@silexia 5 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

Burying a mile of cable takes several big machines running diesel fuel (very bad for the environment). Call it approximately 300 gallons of diesel per mile.

This plan will burn 300 * 10,000 = 3,000,000 gallons of diesel fuel.

This plan is far worse for the environment then simply doing more controlled burns to reduce fire risk.

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@LinuxBender 6 days

Replying to @boulos 🎙

When they say 10k miles, do they mean 10k miles of land or of cable? Asking because my military unit used individual cables to exaggerate numbers. i.e. 6 strands at 1 mile would become "6 miles of cable run". Either way, great they are doing this. I hope they prevent some fires and save some lives.

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