Oh dear

We were approaching Rugby and the landscape was scarred by electricity pylons. I couldn\’t stop myself from wondering aloud why we couldn\’t lay electric cabling underground to replace them. Even though she was staring at them, my companion saw nothing. She didn\’t realise that by burying electric cables we could create hundreds of rural jobs where, at the moment, there is unemployment.

We could indeed create hundreds of jobs that way. Which is why we don\’t do it of course.

Creating hundreds of jobs is a cost: burying cables costs more money than stringing them from pylons. Yes, of course, the views are better but that\’s not worth raising the cost of electricity to everyone.

13 thoughts on “Oh dear”

  1. I suspect that some of those “electricity pylons” are, in fact, antennae for the long wave radio transmitter.

  2. it’s not just the cost of doing it – it’s the cost of it once it’s done.

    Power losses in pylons go with I^2.R so to avoid huge transmission losses, the voltage is kept as high as possible – 440kV in the main grid. Thus, underground cables have to be really really heavily insulated.

    Even so, there is always a power loss in transmission – so the cables get hot. the hotter they get, the higher their resistance and the more power is lost and insulating cables stops them from shedding that heat.

    Net result, underground cables have higher transmission losses and hence running costs.

  3. Oh and by the way, all of the above is absolutely bog standard O-level (note O-level, not GCSE) physics. This stuff is utterly uncontroversial to any 14 year old that has been taught physics properly.

    “Even though she was staring at them, my companion saw nothing”. On the contrary, she saw that her interlocutor was a moron.

  4. Well, if burying electricity cables is a bad idea, we should create jobs by burying other stuff.

    Then double the job-creating effect by digging it all up again.

    Or we could pay people to write blogs no one wants to read.

  5. Ian Bennett,

    I was wondering that too. Looking at a map, the train line runs about half a mile from the radio station.

    They couldn’t really confuse a radio mast with an electric pylon, could they?

  6. The title of the piece says it all:

    “Charlie Brooks on how a journey across Britain helped him see the countryside through a townie’s eyes. ”

    And it could have have continued “…and demonstrated he’s a prat.”

    We don’t need him to see it through a townies eyes, we need him and his ilk to see it through our eyes or better still leave us alone and keep his daft ideas to himself.

  7. The Pedant-General,

    I’m trying to not give the enemy an idea but here is a presumably expensive and impractical make work scheme: Bury the cables, cool them with water and sell the hot water. A nationwide combined heat and power grid if you like.

  8. Gareth,

    Just don’t. Please. Just don’t.

    [disclaimer: I have in the past had letters published in the dead-tree press on the topic of CHP, but I suspect that this misses the essential point of overall thermodynamic efficiency to end users. 🙂 ]

    FlateEric (is that typo?)
    I’ve got a better burying idea. Why don’t we just bury the moron who wrote this piece and all his friends?

  9. Yeah, UG HV cables are rather heavily insulated and they do, of course warm as their load increases. However, the typical UG (solid dielectric) cables at 400 Kv have lower total losses than a comparable (in rated load) overhead 400 Kv line. This can be a problem as an UG transmission line will then draw a higher current than a parallel (on the grid) overhead line, which can then upset the ability to balalnce the grid. At present, direct-buried UG transmission cost about 3-4 times the equivalent overhead line. However, UG requires very little right-of-way compared to the overhead. This can offset the higher initial cost of the UG in areas of higher-priced rights-of-way.

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