New power grid for the USA

Discussion in 'Politics, Religion, Social Issues' started by Mac'nCheese, Oct 28, 2012.

  1. Mac'nCheese macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #1
    As the north east in the USA braces for another storm that will almost certainly cause blackouts, a few of us were discussing in another thread how the USA should have moved the power lines underground in this area years ago. A bigger project would be to rebuild, from the ground up, a new power grid in this country. Be good for jobs, the environment (new tech should equal lower pollution) and we could finally move our lines underground in areas like the northeast instead of losing power for days and spending a fortune to fix the damage every few years. What say you?
     
  2. citizenzen macrumors 65816

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    #2
    Good idea. I believe that may be part of What Obama was talking about when he said he'd bring the troops back from Afghanistan and engage in some nation building in the good old U.S.A.

    Our infrastructure certainly could use some work.
     
  3. Ugg macrumors 68000

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    It's a great idea. I believe the entire US grid needs to be updated so starting with the NE would be a great way to kick it off.
     
  4. jnpy!$4g3cwk macrumors 65816

    jnpy!$4g3cwk

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    A totally new Power Grid would be extremely expensive and wasteful. However, there is a very large amount of work that could be done to make the grid more redundant and much more resilient in the face of various kinds of storms-- solar, wind, ice, storm surges/coastal inundation. Normally, it is ratepayers who pay for most of that, so, people tend to resist it since it makes their electric bills go up.

    And, to tell you the truth, I'm personally much more worried about the health and safety of the natural gas distribution system.
     
  5. Mac'nCheese thread starter macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    That's a good point. I can't remember what I was watching but it was about the gas system and how it's just falling apart.
     
  6. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    #6
    The problem with putting the lines underground is that the cost is in the order of millions per mile(s).
     
  7. Mac'nCheese thread starter macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #7
    Oh....well. That's a lot. Didn't know it was that much. Ok, how about a new tunnel from nj to NYC. Take some traffic off of the Gwb. Anyone in?
     
  8. DakotaGuy macrumors 68040

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    #8
    The other problem with putting them underground is also the lifespan of high current underground wires. In several places where I live high current underground lines have had to be replaced with overhead lines.

    I love the idea of going underground and it works great for communication lines and lower current power lines, but long term reliability remains a problem in high current applications.
     
  9. zioxide macrumors 603

    zioxide

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    Roads, bridges, power grid, sewer, water and gas pipes, communications infrastructure. In many places of the country (especially here in the northeast where I'm from), these things are falling apart. We have roads and bridges built designed to have a 50 year life span that are already 60-70+ years old.

    The United States needs to seriously modernize our infrastructure. We're falling way behind countries like China in this regard.
     
  10. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    #10
    Yeah I'm otherwise totally in favor, but, the tech isn't there just yet.
     
  11. MadeTheSwitch macrumors 6502a

    MadeTheSwitch

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    With climate change, and the increase in the number of storms that is taking the power grid out in these states, at what point does it become more cost effective (and better for the citizens as a whole) to move the lines underground rather then to endure the cost of repairing and the lost economic activity due to no power?
     
  12. quagmire, Oct 28, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2012

    quagmire macrumors 603

    quagmire

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    I have no problem with keeping the high powered lines above ground. At least when there is a power outage, it won't last long since those are the first to be repaired.

    The bigger issue for burying the lines at least where I am from is that Pepco had the chance to bury the lines back in the 70's. Our area wasn't as built up as it is today. But, they went cheap and now a simple gust of wind knocks out the power in our area. So there is a demand to bury the lines from the people in our area. The issue is now that everything is built up, it will be costly, require peoples yards to be dug up, and a lot of trees needing to be cut down. I bet Pepco wished they did opt to bury the lines when they had the chance back in the 70's now.....
     
  13. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    Iirc, NYC buried its lines in response to a bad blizzard in the 1880s that resulted in hundreds of broken live wires being exposed and rolling around in the streets.

    The secondary problem with buried lines is that routine maintenance, upgrades, and fixes are also more expensive because unlEss you have a very thorough network of tunnels and manholes you have to dig up the streets to get to them.

    Here we also have issues where things were buried so long ago and by so many different companies that there are no thorough diagrams of what's under our streets. When they were digging the tunnels for the 2nd ave subway the last couple years they kept running into undocumented wires and pipes that had to be carefully moved before they could keep digging, lest they break open a gas line or cut power to half the neighborhood.

    I strongly agree, though, that we should be investing more in upkeep and replacements to our infrastructure. It would create jobs and probably save lives, not to mention that more reliable infrastructure makes a place more attractive to business.

    The problem is that when you try to "starve" government, this sort of upkeep is one of the first things to go, since it seems like something that can be deferred. Only, you end up essentially paying interest on it, since repairs cost more than maintenance.

    One thing I really wish Obama had been able to follow through on was a WPA-like public works project. Building and repairing badly needed infrastructure, employing people, getting money flowing through the economy again... Sounds win-win to me.
     
  14. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

    GoCubsGo

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    How do you know?

    Really, in the NE alone that cost would likely be worth it. How much does it cost to lose power for a week after a major weather event? Think businesses, schools, cost to fix the issues, etc.
     
  15. MacNut macrumors Core

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    #15
    I heard a cost of 8 million per mile. They wanted to bury some lines here in town.
     
  16. GoCubsGo macrumors Nehalem

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    As something that I think falls under public works, this has to be posted somewhere. "I heard" doesn't exactly cut it. But still, I think whatever the cost for the NE, it should be done.
     
  17. MacNut, Oct 29, 2012
    Last edited: Oct 29, 2012

    MacNut macrumors Core

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    #17
    Don't forget it is not just power lines that would have to be buried. Phone, and cable infrastructure has to go as well. That is a huge network that would have to be buried and somehow coordinated.

    I pulled up this that explains some of the costs. http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/ezra-klein/wp/2012/07/25/why-most-cities-dont-bury-power-lines/
     
  18. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    #18
    Quick Bing search returned this:

    Link
    I don't know how accurate it is or anything. I heard the figure (millions) from another source.

    ----------

    Well seeing as this is an internet forum, I heard actually does cut it.

    Anyway,

    Whatever the cost it should be done? Uh ok? Have fun paying for it with insane power bills and/or increase in taxes. Don't expect the federal government to pay for it.
     
  19. Mac'nCheese thread starter macrumors 68030

    Mac'nCheese

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    #19
  20. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    I think it would be fantastic if we could bury this ugly power lines and make a much more robust system, it's just that the cost is so much higher that it's not economically feasible, and from what I've read, not yet that much more reliable.
     
  21. MorphingDragon macrumors 603

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    Pfft, I bet we'd have the tech now if you'd stop pulling funding from NASA.
     
  22. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    What?
     
  23. MadeTheSwitch macrumors 6502a

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    The equipment of the 1800's is a lot different than the more modern infrastructure of now. That was over 100 years ago. As for maintenance, of course you do need access. But that shouldn't be an issue. It isn't for other places or other things. Don't know why it would be any different of a challenge here. As for the diagram issue, yeah that is a problem. I would hope with the internet, today's record keeping would be at least somewhat better, but yeah anytime you get more parties involved it's going to get more complicated. That is true.
     
  24. eric/ Guest

    eric/

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    huh? Did you not read the links we posted?
     
  25. splitpea macrumors 6502a

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    #25
    Of course the technology is different, but live wires are live wires -- in fact, the news has been issuing warnings about live downed power lines all day.

    I think the biggest difference in NYC vs most of the rest of the U.S. is (as with so many other things) density. You have fewer miles of cabling serving more people, so there's less to bury and more people to spread the cost among. In a rural area where you have to run 10 miles of wire to serve 5 people, costs for burying power lines are prohibitive (in fact, without government mandates and subsidies it'd be cost-prohibitive to run that line even above ground). In a place where there are 2000 people within 1/10th of a mile, it makes more sense.

    The biggest problem now vs. the 19th C is that labor costs for doing these things are much higher -- due to higher expectations for standard of living as well as higher standards for safety and such, and less tolerance of disruption by the people living around the work site. While we now benefit from a lot of automation, the equipment isn't cheap either. Even after adjusting for inflation, something like digging a new subway tunnel takes many times longer and costs many times as much as it would have 100 years ago.

    But when the costs of not burying the lines are high enough -- and this storm may prove that they are high enough even in some smaller cities -- then it'll get done.
     

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