Oklahoma Weighs ‘Undergrounding’ Options For Power Grid

By Jeff Griffin, Senior Editor | August 2008 Vol. 63 No. 8
Ice storms frequently cause major power outages and can be costly and difficult to repair quickly. (Photo courtesy Public Servic

5. Require utilities to bury main and lateral distribution lines when relocation is necessary for major road and highway projects.

6. Harden all highway crossing electrical lines identified as causing disruptions during storms because of falling on roadways.

7. Harden worst performing circuits.

8. Require utilities to erect self standing poles [strongly anchored, reinforced poles] in strategic locations for transmission lines and targeted distribution lines.

9. Encourage installation of backup self generation [a free standing generation unit] at individual locations to provide power during electrical outages.

10. Require installation of backup self generation for vital services.

11. Create incentives for "smart grid" installations that will allow rerouting of electrical power around downed lines, transformers and other equipment.

12. Require more aggressive vegetation management.

A copy of the full report is available on the OCC web site: www.occ.state.ok.us.

Sources

OCC spokesperson Matt Skinner said methodology for the study included requesting data from all retail electrical utilities and cooperatives in the state; gathering information from the Oklahoma Climatological Survey, Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, Oklahoma Forestry Services, Oklahoma Insurance Department, Oklahoma Highway Traffic Safety Office, and the Oklahoma Tax Commission; reviewing undergrounding studies completed by the states of Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia and Michigan; and reviewing an Edison Electric Institute study on the topic.

Even as OCC's Public Utility Division staff members worked to complete the study and report, a rash of spring storms including tornadoes, extremely strong straight winds, lightning and heavy rains repeatedly disrupted power in several sections of the state.

When OCC announced plans to initiate the undergrounding study in January, most power providers expressed support, including the state's two largest public utilities: Oklahoma Gas & Electric Co. (OG&E), serving Oklahoma City and parts of central and western Oklahoma; and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma (PSO), serving metropolitan Tulsa and portions of eastern and southwestern Oklahoma.

PSO, a business unit of American Electric Power, has an active pilot program started at the request of the OCC to convert aerial cable to underground.

Regarding the OCC report, PSO spokesperson Stan Whiteford said: