All corners of the energy sector, whether they use fossil fuels or renewable energy sources, have the same goal, which is to supply power to the masses. The growing ferocity of storms throughout the United States has hit power grids with body blows that cause prolonged outages. As a result, utility regulators and their communities are increasingly asking utilities to update the power grid infrastructure to make it more resilient against high winds.
Weather Taking A Huge Toll On Power Lines
Hurricane Ida’s rampage across Louisiana had left large swaths of the population without electricity. The local utility, Entergy, had reported that in and around New Orleans over 200 high-transmission wires and 200 substations were damaged. About 10,000 poles, 13,000 wires, and 2,000 transformers had been wiped out.
Advocates for grid resiliency want the utility to rebuild with stronger infrastructure. Concrete and steel structures could replace wooden poles, but that would be very expensive.
Is Burying Lines The Solution?
Burying electricity lines in the ground would protect them from damaging winds. However, utilities often balk at this proposal because of the expense. Power customers would have to bear the cost. Additionally, when buried lines need repair, they are more difficult to access.
Farther north in the Upper Midwest, powerful thunderstorms routinely cause major power outages. The chair of the Michigan Public Service Commission wants utilities to make vegetation management a priority. Trees downed by high winds are the number one source of power grid damage, but utilities routinely slash tree trimming budgets. Utility executives do not view clearing vegetation as a profitable use of resources.
The director of the Citizens Utility Board of Michigan has proposed that grid maintenance be used as a variable when approving power rates and the profit margins for utility monopolies. She said that no incentives currently exist that would motivate utilities to take preemptive action against power outages.
What solutions do you think are the most viable for strengthening power grids in the face of severe weather?