Hurricane Ida plunged more than 1 million customers on the Gulf Coast into darkness, and then knocked out power to another 200,000 in the Northeast on Wednesday night. The chief culprit, especially as the storm first came ashore, was the wind.
A way to avoid that does exist: burying cables underground, The Washington Post reports. It’s something U.S. Rep. Troy Carter, D-New Orleans, is advocating for. Electric power in Manhattan—where the lights stayed on despite Ida’s floods—has been channeled underground for years, as it has in other downtown areas across the country.
The chief drawback is the expense. In California, Pacific Gas and Electric resisted calls to bury its transmission lines for years as being too costly. But after the company’s equipment sparked a string of devastating forest fires, it reversed itself in July, announcing it would bury 10,000 miles of lines that currently run overhead.
The price tag is somewhere between $15 billion and $30 billion. But the company’s CEO says doing nothing would cost the company, and the state, even more.
Critics say the price is not always justifiable. In an essay for the Conversation, Theodore Kury, the director of energy studies at the University of Florida, argued that in many places overhead lines can be afforded better protection than they now have, for much less money than it would take to bury them. Stronger poles, better anchored, would be one step, he wrote, while aggressive cutting back of vegetation would be another. Read the full story.