We receive this question often especially after our customers lose power. We do bury power lines. For over 50 years, we have been installing underground cables where feasible. In fact, well over one-third of the DTE system is currently underground. Since 1970, underground lines have been installed exclusively during the construction phase of all new subdivisions and other construction projects where possible.
Why not bury existing overhead lines?
While burying existing power lines may seem like a logical solution, the reality is putting lines underground isn’t always the easiest or foolproof solution.
Relocating existing overhead lines underground would cause massive disruption to communities from existing trees and their root systems, to swimming pools and swing sets. Established structures such as sidewalks, street surfaces, curbs and driveways would also be affected.
Additionally, burying existing overhead power lines carries a hefty price tag – about three to six times more expensive than installing overhead lines (depending on the field conditions).
Also, when underground outages occur – they typically last longer than overhead, because it takes longer to identify the issues that are often more costly to fix.
Plus, the life cycle of buried lines is about 30 to 40 years, while overheard lines last about 60 years.
Will DTE ever consider burying existing power lines?
AT DTE Energy, we’re always reevaluating our strategy and looking for new ways to build a smarter, stronger energy grid that will reduce power outages and provide energy for the future. Right now, we have a plan that leads to a strategic approach to undergrounding in areas where it makes sense and in ways that are cost-effective. Our teams are studying new technologies and are piloting programs to understand customer acceptance, cost implications and ways to drive down costs to make undergrounding more affordable for our customers.
We will continue to assess and make significant investments in our infrastructure — constructing new substations, upgrading poles and wires, installing new technologies, and trimming overgrown trees along power lines— to bring you safer, more reliable energy and peace of mind.