• Wiring under Water
  • March 30, 2010 | Author: Elena Babaeva Coradini
  • Law Firm: Waller Lansden Dortch & Davis, LLP - Nashville Office
  • An interesting idea, using underwater cable as an alternative to electrical towers, is getting support from several environmental groups because it may encourage renewable energy projects:

    The cost of putting a cable under water can be lower than burying cables on land, because workers can lay the cables from giant reels, allowing stretches of more than a mile with no splices. The strategy is limited, of course, by the availability of rivers and lakes -- they do not go everywhere power developers would like to run new lines. In fact, many of the country’s rivers run north or south, whereas much of the country’s power must move east or west.

    And underwater lines are still more expensive than lines on transmission towers. Mr. Stern’s 65-mile cable cost about $600 million, and a 53-mile cable under San Francisco Bay cost about $505 million. Much of the cost in each case is to transform the electricity to direct current, a form that is easier to use in buried cables. Standard lines hung on towers run from $1 million to $4 million a mile, depending on terrain and other factors. If more underwater lines are built, the higher costs would have a small impact on electric bills...

    Mr. Stern said his company’s Neptune Cable, which runs from Sayreville, N.J., to Levittown, N.Y., on Long Island, now carries 22 percent of Long Island’s electricity. His company is trying to complete a deal for a cable that would run from Ridgefield, N.J., to a Consolidated Edison substation on West 49th Street in Manhattan.

    Those two cables were not motivated primarily by environmental goals -- they are meant to connect cheap generation to areas where power prices are high. Mr. Stern’s company, PowerBridge, is now considering two renewable energy projects, however. One cable would connect proposed wind farms on the Hawaiian islands of Molokai and Lanai to the urban center on Oahu, and another would bring wind power from Maine along the Atlantic coast to Boston.

    The problems of laying submarine cables can be such as stirring up chemicals from the bottoms of the oceans and lakes and disturbing certain fish habitats.  The benefits of course are such as bringing alternative energy to areas that can benefit from it.