Old Powerline Structure Wildfire Threat

George Becker Pexels

Some of America’s electric lines sit on top of wood poles that are sixty or seventy years old. This aging infrastructure makes wildfires more likely. This is particularly true in areas hit by climate change, which has caused droughts and contributed to unusually high wind speeds. 

Electricity NewsAmerica Is Running Out Of Electricity

According to an analysis from NPR, officials in some sections of the country have started to take precautions. However, these are often inadequate due to the geographic distribution of the electric lines and budgets. 

President of consulting firm Grid Strategies, Rob Gramlich, told NPR, “Many utilities don’t have the technology to know when power lines are overheating or sagging, potentially onto brush or trees. These things spark fires.” NPR’s analysis also revealed that virtually all publicly held electric utility companies face these challenges. 

Bankruptcy

While the electricity-driven wildfires threaten property and people, they can also wipe out utility company investors. In 2019, PG&E filed for bankruptcy after some of its downed wires caused massive wildfires. Experts at Utility Dive pointed out that these threats go well beyond Calfironai throughout most states in the West and Southwest.

Seth Hilton, partner at Stoel Rives, told Utility Dive, “I think there’s a lot of other utilities that should be concerned about this, whether or not that risk has manifested yet, utilities and regulators are going to be concerned about this — they’re going to want to try and get ahead of this before they spark a major wildfire and are facing significant financial impacts.”

There are easily 100,000 square miles west of the Mississippi prone to drought. No one can say for sure how many of these are crisscrossed by old electrical lines. There are, however, too many to monitor or repair.

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