CALIFORNIA WILDFIRES Make Underground Utilities a Priority

(ASU Newswise) – Despite years of declaring that conversion of high-voltage, long-distance electrical transmission lines to underground installation was cost prohibitive, Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) recently announced plans to spend $20 billion over the next 10 years to bury 10,000 miles of power lines in wildfire-prone areas of California.

The move comes after PG&E filed a preliminary report with the California Utilities Commission noting that this summer’s Dixie Fire, which decimated over 460,000 acres in Northern California, may have been ignited by a blown fuse on one of its utility poles. The company has been linked to multiple fires in California.

“This action taken by PG&E, while motivated by tragic circumstances, highlights the importance of adopting advanced new technologies,” said Samuel Ariaratnam, a nationally-recognized expert in trenchless technology. “Over time, these upfront expenses will pay dividends in diminished maintenance, repair and replacement costs and, most importantly, it will save communities and lives, not only from wildfires but also from other catastrophic events like ice storms, hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Ariaratnam also indicated that some other key professional organizations will look at what PG&E is doing with much interest, including the Power & Communications Contractors Association, the Distribution Contractors Association, the National Utility Contractors Association, the American Society of Civil Engineers, and the North American Society of Trenchless Technology.

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