Windstorm Power Outages in Michigan Create “Overhead vs. Underground” Debate

Ann Arbor, MI – A major windstorm knocked out power to more than a million homes, businesses, schools and other buildings across Michigan in March, causing Rep. Yousef Rabhi to wonder if there is a better way to deliver electricity… like burying power lines?

The Ann Arbor Representative said the damage left behind by the storm demonstrates the frailty of the current electrical infrastructure. “People should not be going without power for five and six days in the middle of winter. People deserve better, so I’m trying to look at solutions.”

Rabhi suggests the electric utilities should start moving in that direction now with a goal of having all overhead lines buried underground over the next 25-30 years.

A DTE Energy spokesperson said the company has been burying power lines underground in all newly-built neighborhoods since the 1970s, but there are challenges in going back and burying power lines in older neighborhoods. The Detroit-based electric utility reports it currently has about 44,000 miles of power lines, roughly 30,000 of which are overhead
and 14,000 of which are underground.

DTE says burying power lines costs six times more than building overhead lines, which would make service more expensive to customers if all lines were to be buried  underground. They also claim that underground lines would have a shorter life span (30-40 years) than overhead lines (60 years).

Staff Report


Related posts