Letter to the Editor: Underground burial of power lines in floodplain is possible but expensive

Power lines

Power lines along the Quincy riverfront | Photo courtesy of Don Carpenter

In reading about the issue of high energy electrical utility distribution along the Quincy riverfront, I saw financial numbers on cost but did not see much given from an electrical engineering power distribution standpoint on this issue.

I trust this is known in the background between Ameren and city engineers. In case there needs to be more said and be given a possible alternative, I offer the following.

Some things to first note.  Sorry if this is a little too technical, but it is needed here by people who understand.

  1. Where is this power distribution coming from and where is it going? It’s current KVA capacity now and planned for.  
  2. The current system looks to have a 4-wire WYE configuration with two conductors for each of the three phases, plus neutral with each of the three phases having dual conductors for a total feed of seven wires.
  3. To bury the cable, it will require that it be able to function having the land submerged as that area is in a floodplain. At least seven separate runs of water-proof conduit look to be needed.  
  4. If failure should occur during flooding to one conductor, the system could remain functional with at 50 percent capacity with dual feeds, but could it reduce capacity or impact users/customers?

Doing such underground burial in a floodplain is possible, but as mentioned, it is very expensive and does pose some risk of failure as does overhead utility wiring.

No utility poles known to man are what I consider beautiful, but the best I have seen is what the Minneapolis community has done on the Mississippi River.

The ones down on the riverfront in Quincy are about the ugliest and look to date back to the 1930s.  Can’t understand why Ameren has kept them so long.

The energy provider and distributer, Ameren, is responsible for the cost of new construction and maintenance of such above ground systems. Is the money being asked for from government agencies in addition to what Ameren would provide if they installed new high energy distribution poles? Looking at the ones now in use, some kid could easily climb to the ladder on the struts to hang a banner and electrocute themselves.

As I have said before, governments can only collect funds from fines, fees and taxes. I use a simplified approach to putting it all in one big bucket. When we have the drama between the two political polarities (pun by us electrical people) about shutting down the government, we as citizens need to look at what is in the best solution on things like this which includes holding down spending and making our riverfront the best possible and safest for our people and business.

Don Carpenter
Quincy, Illinois

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