There are two main options available for connecting an electricity supply to homes, businesses, and entire communities across Australia — overhead power lines and underground cables. Each distribution network has unique benefits and costs that are carefully weighed up in determining the most feasible way to distribute electricity in specific areas.
Generally, overhead distribution networks are preferred over underground networks because there are more benefits to build high-voltage transmission infrastructure above-ground rather than to bury them. Below are some of the top reasons an overhead network is generally considered to be a more feasible solution than an underground network.
Lower Construction Costs
An underground distribution network generally costs more than an overhead line due to the heavier work involved in digging up earth along the entire line route, as well as the higher costs of materials and specialised labour required. Overhead distribution networks do not require such expensive installation processes, materials, and labour. This generally contributes to their lower cost of construction. The affordability of overhead networks is the primary reason most electricity lines are placed above ground.
Ease of Maintenance and Repair
All power distribution lines need to be periodically maintained to ensure the safety of users. When they get damaged, they will need to be repaired quickly and property. Access to electricity lines is, therefore, a major concern for electricity distributors.
Overhead lines are not only cheaper to install but also easier to access for maintenance and repair purposes. Underground cables may require major excavation to locate, which increases the amount of time and money spent performing maintenance and repair work on a distribution network. Power restoration on faulty underground lines also tends to take longer compared to networks located above ground.
Reduced Environmental Impact
Although it leads to reduced visual impact, the burying of power distribution lines has some undesirable effects on the natural environment. Vegetation is removed and natural habitats may be disturbed or destroyed when laying the infrastructure for an underground network. While an overhead network may require vegetation clearing for maintenance and repair, it generally minimizes the impact on the environment during and after the installation process.
Despite the fact that overhead power lines are more affordable and easier to access than underground lines, they're more susceptible to theft, vandalism, and damage from severe weather. These risks can result in extended power outages that may take days or even weeks to fix. Overhead networks may also pose a hazard near aircraft and may not have sufficient right-of-way in densely populated areas. In such special circumstances, shelling out for an underground network may be justified.
Reacho out to a professional who provides energy subdivisions like Energex subdivisions for more information.