JACKSON, Mich. — Consumers Energy announced Wednesday it has proposed a pilot program that would bury Michigan’s power lines.
The energy service provider says burying power lines would bolster the state’s electric grid and decrease the rate of power outages while saving money in their effort to improve Michigan's electric infrastructure.
“We know burying power lines will help make the grid stronger, especially during violent storms that are hitting Michigan more frequently,” says Vice President of Electric Distribution Engineering Greg Salisbury. “Historically the costs to bury lines have been too expensive, but we have driven down the cost per mile to be equivalent to above-ground hardening costs. This pilot will help us learn even more about how to bury lines in ways that keep costs as low as possible, allowing us to bury additional lines in the future.”
The proposal is awaiting the Michigan Public Service Commission’s approval.
If the program is authorized, it would begin with projects in Allegan, Ottawa, Montcalm, Iosco, Livingston and Genessee counties, according to Consumers Energy.
Spokesperson Josh Paciorek says underground power lines are better protected against external forces resulting in power outages.
"It's protected from some of the most common causes of power outages such as falling trees, lightning, high wind gusts, ice storms, things like that," says Paciorek. "One of the other important benefits of burying power lines is it improves public safety. ... By putting the lines underground, we are basically removing the threat of downed power lines after a storm comes through."
Paciorek adds homeowners will be notified if power lines will be buried near them, along with relevant information on what to expect from the project. He says the program would not come at any additional cost to customers.
The organization’s goal is to bury 400 miles of power lines each year.
We’re told 15% of Consumers Energy’s power lines are currently underground.