WPS project aims to reduce power outages - WAOW - Newsline 9, Wausau News, Weather, Sports

WPS project aims to reduce power outages

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RHINELANDER (WAOW) -

In just a few years, these power poles above ground could be a thing of the past.

"Storms frequently knock out power," Wisconsin Public Service Community Relations Director Leah Van Zile said.

That's why WPS is asking the state for permission to bury existing power lines in the Northwoods.

"It can't eliminate outages because even underground outages can occur," Electrical engineer Richard Rietz said. "But, the idea is to minimize the number of outages, especially in those hardest hit areas."

The project, if it's approved, would take five years to complete. WPS officials say they would bury roughly 300 miles of power lines each year.

"If we can reduce the number of outages on some of the worst circuits that will free up crews when storms do hit," Rietz said.

The project would target electric lines primarily in rural areas. WPS officials say right now, Minocqua, Eagle River and Elcho are up the top of their list.

"There's a much higher concentration of trees in the northern part of the state," Rietz explained. "Trees can fall on lines and knock power out, or worse take the line down which makes it harder to restore."

But, there is a cost. The project would be entirely funded by WPS customers. That would mean an increase in utility bills, which could be a tough sell in a tough economy.

"Even though its a very costly project, it's important to our customers to have that reliability," Van Zile said.

The project is still in the early stages. If it's approved, construction is set to begin in 2014. WPS officials will find out if the project is approved within the next six months. 

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