Duke Energy has projects in the works to reduce power outages

HIGH POINT, N.C. -- People in the Piedmont Triad remember how Tropical Storm Michael ripped apart power lines and sent poles crashing to the ground. Some of those lines are high above people’s homes and across their backyards, making it tougher for crews to make repairs.

Duke Power is working on securing easements on Briarwood Avenue in High Point to put their power lines underground. The hope is this will help reduce the number of outages families deal with due to trees falling on lines during storms.

Nancy Jeffers is a little too familiar with how to survive for days without power.

“Since we’ve been here I think we’ve had, gosh I think seven or eight big power outages,” Jeffers said.

When Tropical Storm Michael knocked out power earlier this month, she waited five days for her lights to come back on.

“Every season, every season we get a little uneasy. And the older we get the more impactful I would say it is,” she said.

Trees surround the power lines in the family's backyard, making it challenging for crews to get back there to restore power. It also means it can take longer to get the power back on for her and her neighbors, especially because there are only a few homes connected to those power lines.

“When Duke Power came around a couple of weeks ago and said, 'We are looking at potentially burying your cable,' I said, 'Yes!'” she said.

Duke Energy has a new project that is strategically studying the Triad to work to put certain sections of power lines underground. They are specifically targeting outage-prone areas caused by trees.

“It will not only help for the reliability for the customers in this community but it will also have a greater impact for customers across the region for freeing up resources during storms and keeping overall restoration costs down,” said Jeff Brooks, a spokesperson for Duke Energy.

Power lines will be moved from the backyards of these homes to an easement in the first few feet of a person's yard. The easements in this case are already owned by the City of High Point, but Duke Energy still has to get permission from each individual homeowner for the project. Duke Energy is also working with other utility companies that use the poles to have all of them run lines underground.

For this project, Duke Energy says they also work with each individual homeowner on the placement of transformer boxes that will have to be placed in the front yards.

While the underground power lines will not be an option for every home in the Triad, there are plans in the works to make things run better for other homeowners as well.

“We’re building smart thinking technologies into all of the power grids all over the Triad. And what that’s going to allow us to do is to identify outages and reroute power without a crew having to come out and do that,” Brooks said.

These upgrades will help make sure when power is lost, people won't be in the dark for so long.

The big question with these projects is time and money. You probably won't notice a big difference in your bill because Duke Energy is spacing out the projects. The customers involved in this project will probably have the work complete by the beginning of 2019, but Duke Energy needs to finish working out the easements first. It will take years to complete all of the work and projects across the Triad.

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