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U.S. | Health, Housing, and Public Services

Job Creation for the Power Crazy
by J.L. Morin
Saturday Nov 3rd, 2012 3:48 AM
On swapping stories after Hurricane Sandy and pollution visuelle

This article first appeared in the Huffington Post on 11.1.2012


Swapping stories after Hurricane Sandy, Singer-songwriter Haale Gafori said, “I like how hurricanes bring neighbors together. One of ours just knocked on the door and said building-wide potluck at 6 p.m., first time that's ever happened in this building, the sweet upside of natural disasters.”

Amidst people coming together and sharing whatever they have after the hurricane, prevention stories prevailed.

You don’t have to be from Paris to understand the concept of pollution visuelle: unattractive man-made construction affecting one’s ability to enjoy another aesthetically pleasing view. Candidates for the label ‘visual pollution’ include wind turbines, billboards, litter, graffiti, and overhead power lines…

After the hurricane’s extensive damage to overhead electrical lines, it is natural to wonder if it would be better to bury lines underground to protect them from ice, debris, and wind.

How about creating jobs by putting power lines underground? In Europe, this and job creation are enough reason to do it. What will it take to convince the rest of America?

Hi-Line Engineering, a Georgia-based utility consulting firm, says ninety percent of new subdivisions are served by underground cable. Sixteen percent of the 2.5 million miles of distribution lines owned and maintained by electric co-ops nationwide are underground. This amount is growing by approximately one percent annually. Underground power cables are more reliable in storms and require less right-of-way maintenance because there are no trees to clear away.

A significant number of jobs could be created bringing America up to European standards in terms of reducing visual pollution and installing power cables underground. Economists agree that infrastructure investments deliver the goods for job creation and business growth. This is why Obama’s infrastructure plan for $60 billion toward building and repairing like roads and rail lines to create an estimated tens of thousands of construction jobs was a good idea.

One mile of single phase underground line costs $86,445, while one mile of overhead line costs $60,909, according to a chart prepared by Matthew Avery of CHELCO Construction Services, Inc., that compares construction costs, a small difference compared to cleaning up after a storm. Damage from Hurricane Sandy is estimated to cost over $20 billion.

Underground cables are entirely out of sight, except for an occasional above-ground terminal. In addition to being less vulnerable to air-borne obstacles like wind and ice, in downtown districts, they are more practical than overhead lines.
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J.L. Morin is the award-winning author of Amazon’s and Occupy’s bestselling novel, Trading Dreams, free at Kindle.