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City of Tallahassee discusses underground power line progress

One of the issues Tallahassee has during storms are power outages
Posted at 6:21 PM, Apr 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-02 03:58:15-04

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Hurricane Season is right around the corner, June 1, to be exact, and the time to prepare is now.

One of the biggest issues Tallahassee has during storms are power outages.

One solution would be to have all power lines underground so they wouldn't be hit by trees or blown down and 45 percent of the city's primary circuit miles are, but putting the remaining 55 percent underground would take decades and is extremely cost prohibitive.

Since the middle to late 80s all of the new development in Tallahassee has had their power lines put underground, but as we can see when we travel through the city, there are still plenty of above ground lines, about 1,000 miles of primary circuit miles that still need to be converted and when it come to dollars and sense, that adds up.

It costs in the neighborhood of a $1 million to a $1.5 million per mile to take the overhead miles and put them underground. Plus, stomers have to spend money for their homes and businesses to change where the delivery point is," said Rob McGarrah, General Manager of City's Electric and Gas Utility.

The cost to customers to change that delivery point is between $2,000 to $3,000.

Utility officials said there are pros and cons to putting power lines underground. The pros are that an underground line is not susceptible to trees, animals, and storm damage.

The downside is an underground wire has to be replaced periodically, where an overhead wire doesn't have to, and when it does fail, the outages last longer," said McGarrah. "And you do have issues with underground service, especially if you are in an area that is prone to flooding."

McGarrah said they would love to have all of the power lines underground but it's an impractical reality from a cost perspective, but there has been some progress when it comes to getting lines underground.

"Anything new we are building, any new subdivision , those lines are going underground and we have a half dozen projects in the last year and a half or two years converted overhead wires to underground and worked with developers in the areas that are being redeveloped," said McGarrah.

Utility officials say everyone has a responsibility to be personally prepared for a storm.

The City of Tallahassee Utilities Neighborhood Prep Program helps people plan for emergency response and emergency preparedness.

They will have several workshops coming up. For more information go to talgov.com.