While underground electricity cabling could potentially lessen the impact of weather systems the national grid, the option is not something the Barbados Light & Power can consider at the moment because of cost.
Noting that such underground transmission was indeed very expensive, the company’s Corporate Communications Administrator, Jackie Marshall-Clarke said: “As a matter of fact, we believe it could be ten times the amount of what it would cost us to put overhead lines and so on in place.
“Added to the expense it would be a lot of planning to be done and maybe a lot of disruption and all of that in terms of property and to put underground lines, but of course our underground transmission lines are in places that we need them most and to the most critical areas,” she added.
Engineer, Nneka Archer explained that underground transmission lines were what supplied power from the generation station to the substations. “The overhead lines are the distribution lines and those are easily fixed, as you can see from [Tropical Storm] Tomas because most of the time the damage is as a result of trees and once you clear the trees most of the time the poles stay up and it is just a matter of putting the lines back onto the poles, but the important part is the transmission lines,” said Archer, adding that most transmission lines were underground.
Although it might seem like poles were a big challenge in bad weather, Marshall-Clarke clarified that in Tropical Storm Tomas, they had lost only four, adding that the poles were designed to resist winds up to 135mph.
She said though that there was also the element of being able to quickly find and fix faults that had to be considered.
“It is also easier to find faults and identify faults in overhead system. In an underground system it would take us a much longer time to find where faults are and to actually evaluate and assess which could cause maybe a little bit more delay sometimes in putting general electricity supply back on,” she said. (LB)