It's almost like clockwork these days in Maine. A powerful storm shows up at our doorstep, and just as quickly, the lights go off. After all, Maine suffers from the highest rate of power outages in the entire nation.

Those statistics make it rather easy to blame the companies that maintain the power grid in the state. But as storm severity increases, the infrastructure that Maine is built upon is starting to look very tenuous. Why did a state with so much coastline built the majority of its power lines above ground? The answer is complex.


The top reason why the majority of power lines in Maine aren't placed underground is straightforward: it's all about the money. As astute homeowners in Maine have likely noticed, the majority of new developments in the state have utilities buried underground upon construction.

Facebook via Central Maine Power
Facebook via Central Maine Power

The price tag is legitimate. Installation of underground lines can cost anywhere from five to 15 times more than standard overhead utility lines on poles. Depending on the size and scope of the project, that could mean millions of dollars.

Speaking on money, Massachusetts once considered moving all power lines underground, and found the estimated cost to be more than one trillion dollars to complete the project.

The Ecosystem

Another major problem with burying all power lines is what issues you may find underground. Everyone knows that water and electricity don't play nicely with one another, so placing lines underground in areas with high water tables or those susceptible to flooding can be extremely challenging.

Campsite on a pond in Maine

Maine is also a mountainous state. Just like with roads, blasting through rock to create pathways for power lines is time consuming and expensive.

The Price of Future Disasters

While power outages and a fragile grid continue to plague the majority of the state, it may end up falling on individual towns and cities to lead the way on changes. In some other states, cities where power outages had become commonplace have begun an effort to move utilities from poles to beneath the ground at their own expense.

Power lines weighed down by ice cause damage along a country road.

The thought process is simple: spend the money now before disaster strikes and forces the city to spend even more on repairs down the line. From wind storms to ice storms and beyond, some cities and municipalities in Maine will start to consider the upfront cost versus the down-the-line cost of this very thing.


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