Thursday, October 25, 2007

To Bury or Raise

Vikki Kratz of the Isthmus has been covering the electrical upgrade needed for an expanding Dane County. The project has been challenged at every step by environmentalists including Dane County Executive Kathleen Falk and Madison Mayor Dave Cieslewicz. Fortunately enough adults understand you can't have an economy with “living wage” jobs without dependable electricity. So as the project moves forward the challenges turn towards aesthetics and the price of beauty.

Why won't ATC bury the lines?: Burying transmission lines — even at voltages as high as 500 kilovolts — is an industry trend worldwide. "Typically, they just get buried and left there," says Ian Hiskens, a professor of electrical engineering at UW-Madison. "No one really thinks about it too much." Yet American Transmission Company adamantly opposes burying any part of the 345-kilovolt line it wants to build in Dane County.

“… in the U.S., it typically costs $10 million-$13 million per mile to bury a 345-kilovolt line. In Europe, the cost for undergrounding lines drops to $6 million per mile. (An overhead line costs between $2 million and $6 million per mile.) In an analysis submitted to the state Public Service Commission (PSC) last week, ATC said it would cost between $21 million and $28 million per mile to bury the cable along the Beltline.

One of opponent of above ground lines tosses in this quote: “Do we want to be the last place that's just got these god-awful overhead lines?" The aesthetic destroying nature of overhead wires is a point I kept making against the misguided trolley system, but there is a difference between webbing and linage. I’m not yet convinced that the beauty of the beltline is worth preserving with huge increases in my electric bill.