Friday, March 15, 2019

This is a recent conversation I had online with an electrical utility industry insider. I suggested moving major HVDC powerlines from Quebec to Boston underground and here's what he said:

It's simple math, underground is 5 to 10 times more expensive depending on location and terrain. It's hard enough to spend billions on overhead let alone underground.

This is a theory that many electrical utility industry insiders believe and here's why I disagree.

There are several hidden assumptions in what you say. The cost of underground must also include the loss in real estate value in land that overhead lines cause versus the lack of impact of underground lines. There are many areas where the value of the land itself is something on the order of $40,000 per acre. When you put an overhead power line through such an area, one reduces the value around the line, not just under the line, but around the line. This economic impact is not counted for but it should be. Furthermore, another hidden assumption is that you are comparing overhead lines to cables. Since the potential capacity of an overhead line is higher than overhead lines given current technology have an advantage if they're going to carry more than two gigawatts. My invention the elpipe will enable underground transmission to carry more than ten gigawatts per line. Of course, one must deal with redundancy, but that is well documented in my writings. In particular, you could notice that an HVDC loop has self-redundancy as long as there are circuit breakers between all the major power taps in the line.

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