When powerful winds roll through our area and we experience outages, we often are asked why we don’t have more of our power lines buried underground.
While more than half of the cooperative’s lines are underground, overhead lines are still more affordable to construct, repair and maintain. Faults on the line can be visually inspected, and repairs are usually made quickly. Those factors come into play prominently when bad storms and hurricanes strike and our crews need to quickly find and fix problems. That’s not the case with underground lines.
A majority of the underground lines are in newer residential subdivisions, where developers and homeowners prefer underground lines for aesthetic reasons. In fact, aesthetics is the main reason those lines are buried in new construction projects, and they do fail less frequently than overhead lines, but underground lines are not without problems.
While the cooperative uses the most reliable underground technologies and materials available, such as insulated cable and protective conduit, problems with existing underground cables can still take longer to find and fix. Additionally, the cost of installing underground cable is much higher than building overhead lines and they are much more expensive if they need to be replaced. Underground cable costs roughly 3 times more per mile than overhead distribution lines.
While it may make sense to go underground with power lines in new developments, replacing existing overhead lines in developed areas is not usually a financially feasible option. It’s costly to install lines in a way that minimizes disruption to residents and businesses.
Replacement means disturbing existing landscaping and boring under existing driveways. The work, if not done properly, can cause accidental damage to other utility lines such as cable, phone or water. Conversely, underground power lines can be accidentally damaged by crews working on other underground utilities or building projects.
We make it easy for professional excavators and homeowners alike to locate underground utilities by joining the national “Call Before You Dig” program. 811 is the national number designated by the Federal Communications Commission to help protect homeowners and professional excavators from unintentionally hitting underground utility lines while working on digging projects.
Why call 811?
Every digging project, no matter how large or small, warrants a call to 811. Installing a mailbox, building a deck and planting a tree or garden are all examples of digging projects that should only begin after underground lines are marked. Hitting an underground utility line while digging can harm the environment, cause serious personal injuries, disrupt service to an entire neighborhood and potentially incur fines and repair costs.
How does it work?
You need to call at least 72 hours before digging Dialing 811connects callers in North Carolina with the state’s one-call center (www.nc811.org). A representative from the one-call center will ask you for the location and description of your digging job. The representative will then notify CCEC and other affected utility companies to send professional locators to the proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of your lines. Once your underground lines have been marked, you will know the approximate location of your utility lines and can dig safely.
If you are installing a pool in your yard, you need to know that the National Electrical Safety Code requires a 22.5 foot clearance in any direction from the water level, edge of pool, diving platforms, pool sliding boards or other fixed pool-related structure to the overhead electric service line, and a 25-foot clearance from overhead primary lines. The code applies to in-ground and above-ground pools, hot tubs, and the like.
Additionally, all pools must be a minimum of 5 feet away from any underground electric cables. Call before you set up any in-ground or above ground pool or hot tub to be sure clearances are met. Before digging for any pool or yard project, call 811 to have underground cables located.
Failure to check clearances can result in additional expense if we have to move any of our lines and facilities or if the pool or hot tub must be moved to comply with the National Electrical Safety Code.
The clearances are designed to protect swimmers and people using rescue and skimmer poles, which are typically aluminum, and to keep the path clear for utility workers.
If you have trees in your yard that are endangering our lines and equipment, please give us a call at (252) 247-3107 or (800) 682-2217 or complete this form to request trimming. We will contact you by phone before we send any crews or equipment to your property.
Remember plant all trees, plants, shrubs and fences a minimum of 10 feet away from electrical equipment. This will prevent your landscaping items from being removed or trimmed for access to equipment.