In a dramatic shift, Pacific Gas & Electric Company has announced a new effort to bury powerlines underground in coming years.
The company said, since 2018, it has completed demonstration projects aimed at converting overhead power lines to underground in high fire-threat areas of Sonoma counties. PG&E also said it completed undergrounding eight miles of power lines in the Larkfield Estates and Mark West Estates communities.
But other than those claims, few details accompanied today's announcement. It's unclear when work will start, where exactly it will be done or when it will be completed. But whenever that is, the number of fires sparked by PG&E equipment and number of pre-emptive outages to prevent those fires, should decline in those areas.
New PG&E CEO Patti Poppe [[popp-ee]] announced the initiative today from Butte County, where the utility said it's equipment may have ignited the now 85,000 acre Dixie Fire.
"We are committing today, to undertake one of the largest infrastructure projects in the history of our state. We are committing to bury 10,000 miles of lines. Starting in our highest fire threat districts, in our highest risk areas. We start today," she said.
PG&E says it appears the Dixie Fire began when a tree fell on one of its lines. In today's undergrounding announcement, the utility says it's using new technology and construction methods to increase trench production. And bundling work into larger blocks to take advantage of economies of scale. A PG&E engineer said the company could eventually reach a pace of undergrounding 1,000 miles worth of lines per year.