Oklahoma Might Move Electrical Grid Underground
When it comes to power outages across our region of the United States, there's really two culprits. Weather events that dump massive amounts of ice and snow, and the random fried squirrel once in a while. Add in an aging electrical grid, and a new suggestion to move America's electricity underground seems to be gaining support... just not from the power companies.
In my life, in all the different places I've ever lived, the only place I've ever lost power for an extended period of time was here in Oklahoma. Once during my freshman year of college due to an apocalyptic ice storm that killed some one million trees just in that little college town alone. We were without power for some two weeks, but the dorm parties were fun.
The next time I was living in Oklahoma city in January of 2010. Another record snow and ice storm put enough of a hurt on the Sooner State, almost the entire Western half went without power for about ten days, some up to two weeks. That was the storm that took our broadcast tower down. Truly, one for the ages.
The last time I was living in Lawton for the second time. It hasn't been that long ago, but it was due to a freak Thanksgiving ice storm in 2015. The outage only lasted a few days, but it didn't even affect the entire city, and it was all because our aging electrical grid is hoisted from pole to pole exposed to the elements and vulnerable to the added weight of winter precipitation.
I spent quite a few years growing up in a Colorado suburb of Denver. If you didn't know, it snows a lot in Denver. The meteorologists there predict feet of snow instead of inches, and it almost always delivered. The difference being, Colorado was built and prepared for it. Heated sidewalks in neighborhoods so kids never missed school, underground utilities so nobody ever went without heat or electric. It was purpose built.
The little town in Northern Oklahoma I spend the other half of my childhood in was also built in this manner. Sure, the main power lines from the power generation station South of town ran between towers on the journey up to us, but after getting in town, everything was underground. Losing power there was a rarity, and when we did, it was almost always a fifteen or twenty minute easy fix for the pole patrol. A few select other Oklahoma cities are built in this manner too, but not everywhere, and it's become the new talking point since that epic February 2021 blizzard knocked some places off the grid for a month.
Naturally, the power companies in the state are trying to get ahead of the conversation talking about how expensive it would be. OG&E famously stated to bury their current grid, it would cost some $60million and be a nightmare for the legal department redrawing land use agreements... but there's a catch.
As a part of the trillion dollar infrastructure bill that has already passed the US Senate, there's $73billion earmarked specifically for bulking up the power grid across the United States. The aim is to bring America's power grid up to a new modern standard set forth in more technologically forward countries like Germany and the Netherlands - AKA - countries that also get tons of winter weather.
The other big talking point big electric brings up on the topic is how useful overhead power lines are for things like construction and overall maintenance, not to mention how overhead power lines make tornado spotting and pinpointing a lot easier when storms are wrapped up in rain.
Does this mean Oklahoma's grid will eventually go underground? Probably not... but you can bet the power companies will enjoy their cut of that infrastructure bill. Probably use it to buy back their own publicly traded stock like every other corporation in this country does.