Why does Kentucky Utilities not bury all of their power lines?

Why does Kentucky Utilities not bury all of their power lines?
Published: Mar. 10, 2023 at 5:29 PM EST
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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - According to Kentucky Utilities, last Friday’s storms knocked out power to about 380,000 customers. A week later, some residents are still in the dark.

While covering the cleanup this week, a viewer asked us why KU doesn’t bury all of their lines, saying the storm impact on power lines would be much smaller. We asked KU this same question, and you might be surprised with their answers.

KU spokesperson Daniel Lowry says the electric company conducted a study about burying lines after the 2009 ice storm. Lowry says the study concluded that the rough cost for distribution lines was about a million dollars a mile. Transmission lines would cost $10 to $15 million. And to bury everything would be about $64 billion dollars.

Lowry says some of the costs to bury the lines would come from digging up roads and sidewalks. On top of that, the existing infrastructure would have to be taken down from the utility poles, and it would have to invest in new equipment to go underground. He says those costs would dramatically increase rates.

“We’re not talking double; we’re talking higher than that,” Lowry said.

Jessaca Wafford lives in Lexington’s Liberty Heights neighborhood. It sits between Liberty Road and Henry Clay Boulevard. She says last Friday’s storms blew down a lot of older trees in backyards, damaging powerlines and knocking out the lights. She believes underground electric is the best way to avoid a power outage.

“You know it’d be more impossible to go around and cut down every single tree limbs that’s hanging versus burying the lines,” said Wafford.

Wafford understands getting power from below would be a humongous project to complete, but she believes in the long run, it would be worth the investment.

“I do understand where they are coming from,” she said. “I understand it would cost a lot of money. It would be time-consuming, but like I said, we hope that there is a better solution.”

Lowry says underground lines have issues as well and fixing those problems are much more difficult to resolve because utility crews would have to dig up sidewalks, streets and yards just to get to the line.