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Ask SAM: Why doesn't Duke Energy bury more power lines?

Ask SAM: Why doesn't Duke Energy bury more power lines?


Q: Duke Energy buries power lines underground in new housing developments. Power outages there are rare. Why can’t Duke Energy bury overhead existing power lines In the city to eliminate power outages? It seems like it would be a more efficient use of manpower. During power outages repairmen work overtime and sometimes around the clock to get power restored. Would it be so different than burying TV and Internet cable lines? Gas lines? Could Duke Energy do neighborhood sections one at a time?


Answer: There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods, said Jimmy Flythe, a spokesman for Duke Energy in the Carolinas.

“During storms, fewer outages seem to occur where lines are underground; however, underground service is significantly more expensive to install, which can result in higher electric rates,” Flythe said.

“When there is an underground outage, the repair normally takes much longer and it is at a higher cost. Installing underground lines is best done as part of comprehensive planning for new developments. This way, the cost is less expensive than converting later from overhead to underground.”

He said that when problems arise underground, earth-moving equipment is often required, taking significant time and impacting the customer’s property. “Overhead systems, while susceptible to more outages, can be repaired more quickly, even after major storms.”

“When evaluating placing lines underground, we review outage data to look at the entire system and identify specific lines or sections of lines that may not be experiencing the same level of reliability, and then we place less reliable sections of lines underground if that is the best option to enhance reliability.”

There are also often other ways to enhance reliability, such as installing self-healing technology that automatically detects, isolates and reroutes power when a problem occurs which adds increased flexibility for rerouting power when outages occur, to restore customers faster and lessen the impact of tree-related outages.

“And, by upgrading equipment, we are making our system more resilient to severe weather,” Flythe said. “We continually evaluate options to enhance reliability for our customers.”

All that being said, Duke Energy does have a “targeted undergrounding program” that focuses on the most outage-prone overhead power lines that deliver power into neighborhoods and to homes and businesses.

“We use an objective, data-driven process to identify the most outage-prone lines in our operating areas and evaluate if putting them underground would enhance reliability.”

Q: Scott Sexton’s recent article about the SHARE Cooperative and Harvest Market was inspiring, but there was no contact information. Where can we go to support this project?


Answer: You can find out more about the project or make donations at, or write to or PO Box 25454, Winston-Salem, NC 27144.

The group works to provide food and nutritional education and advice to people living in “food deserts” in the Winston-Salem/Forsyth County area.



Write: Ask SAM, 418 N. Marshall St., Winston-Salem, NC 27101 

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