Undergrounding Cables Could Help Coastal Regions Withstand Extreme Weather Events

While excessive heat waves and monster storms remind us of the effects of global warming, a new study concludes that these effects can be mitigated.

In July 2022, scientists from Princeton University and the Huazhong University of Science and Technology in Wuhan, China, published the results of their study in the journal Nature. “Tropical cyclone-blackout-heatwave compound hazard resilience in a changing climate” examined the effects of increasing tropical cyclones and intense heat waves as a result of climate change. The study also looked at certain strategies that can mitigate the effects of these extreme weather events.

The scientists point out that tropical storms are responsible for extensive power outages, which may worsen as climate change intensifies. To make their assumptions even more extreme, but no less realistic, they also added in the effects of heat waves with increasing intensity.

Using Harris County, Texas, as an example, the scientists found that in a so-called “high emissions” scenario, long-duration heat waves following strong tropical cyclones may increase sharply in the future. The expected percentage of county residents experiencing at least one blackout caused by the combination of a tropical storm and heat wave lasting longer than five days could increase from 0.8% to 18.2% over the course of this century. That represents an increase by a factor of 23.

The good news is steps can be taken to protect against outages in the face of such an extreme forecast. The scientists also found that “a moderate enhancement of the power distribution network can significantly mitigate the compound hazard risk.”

In particular, they find that placing a greater portion of distribution infrastructure underground, otherwise known as “undergrounding,” can significantly improve grid resiliency.

For this part of their analysis, the scientists compared three strategies. Randomly undergrounding power transmission networks and randomly undergrounding distribution networks did not perform as well as a third method known as “greedily” undergrounding distribution networks. This method protects a small portion of wires close to the root nodes of the distribution networks.

According to the study, the performance improvement of the local grid would be about 15 times greater as a result of the greedily undergrounding method than it would be with the other approaches.

Original article by Rick Laezman

Freelance Writer

Rick Laezman is a Los Angeles-based freelance writer who has been covering renewable power for more than 10 years. He may be reached at richardlaezman@msn.com.