PG&E works on placing lines underground in Greenville. The utility plans to underground 55 miles line in western Plumas. Photo courtesy of PG&E

PG&E begins undergrounding power lines in Plumas

Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E) has begun installing underground power lines in Plumas County, starting in Greenville with the goal of undergrounding more than 55 miles of power lines in the western portion of the county.

“We at PG&E are deeply committed to doing everything we can to prevent wildfires in the communities we serve and live in,” said Joe Wilson, vice president of PG&E’s North Valley & Sierra Region and a Plumas County native. “Our region has been devastated by wildfires in recent years. Undergrounding work protects our customers, neighbors, friends and families.”

PG&E is working closely with the County of Plumas and other agencies to ensure our work is well coordinated with the other projects such as road work, said Wilson.

PG&E and its contractors started work last week along Lower Williams Valley Road. PG&E will underground power lines in Greenville wherever it is practical.

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Other undergrounding work will also begin this fall and in coming years in other communities in Plumas County, such as along portions of Highways 70 and 89.

In 2021, PG&E announced plans to underground 10,000 miles of power lines in high-fire threat areas.

Undergrounding in local communities can cut the risk of ignitions along undergrounded circuits by 99 percent; reduce annual spending on temporary repairs and other recurring costs such as vegetation management; and curb the need for wildfire safety-related outages. PG&E is emphasizing undergrounding in areas where it can have the greatest effect on reducing wildfire risk and Public Safety Power Shutoffs for our customers.

PG&E is also focusing on critical facilities, such as hospitals, and looking at factors including terrain, accessibility, constructability, vegetation, existing infrastructure (such as the number of services and transformers) and climate challenges.

PG&E forecasts an average cost of $3.75 million per mile to underground distribution lines in 2022 and is acting to reduce that cost over the coming years, to $2.5 million per mile in 2026.

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As PG&E undergrounds more lines, it will reduce costs through the adoption of advanced technologies and techniques; building strong partnerships with material suppliers and contractors; testing new cable and conduit materials to accelerate undergrounding; partnering with our internal natural-gas teams as well as other utility providers to joint-trench and share costs where possible; and bundling work into larger blocks to take advantage of economies of scale.

PG&E plans to underground 10,000 miles of distribution powerlines in and near areas at high wildfire risk represents the bold, innovative action that is required to meet California’s climate challenges. It’s also the largest effort in the United States to underground powerlines as a wildfire risk-reduction measure.

PG&E personnel install lines underground on Lower Williams Valley Road on Aug. 17. Photo courtesy of PG&E