Burying power lines underground may improve the landscape, but it does have its drawbacks. Most notably, when a power outage occurs, it may be more difficult to find the exact place in the line that needs to be repaired. Plus, making repairs becomes more complicated because of the digging involved to get to the line.

With some 10.3 million feet of underground power line in Southeast Texas, underground service has become a popular choice.  But what’s a company to do to ensure reliable service from power lines you can’t see?

Enter “underground cable partial discharge” testing. The name means simply that a section of a power line is very briefly subjected to known voltage levels under certain circumstances. Specialized equipment is placed at both ends of the section being tested. The equipment captures information about how well that section of line responds. The results are capable of pinpointing potential problem areas and while also providing information about how many more years the line should be expected to perform well.

“Introducing this technology to Southeast Texas speaks to our commitment to ensuring reliable service to all our customers, regardless of the type of infrastructure that powers their homes and businesses,” explained Vernon Pierce, customer service vice president for Entergy Texas. “This program helps us address the types of problems that can develop specifically with underground power lines.”

In Texas, the program has been in place for two years. In the first year, testing targeted a number of underground power lines served by the Goslin Substation in the heart of The Woodlands. Last year, the program came to Beaumont where underground lines in downtown and at Parkdale Mall were tested. When testing begins this year, it will once again take place in The Woodlands where most power lines are underground.

A combination of factors figure into the lines selected for testing. Those factors include the age of the power line, its performance history and Entergy’s ability to access it. For example, underground lines around Parkdale Mall were chosen because they are buried underneath a parking lot, making them much more difficult to reach should a problem develop. Overall, some 437,112 feet of underground lines have been tested in the Entergy Texas service area.

“We’ve implemented a number of proactive programs to help us in our goal to maintain safe, reliable power for customers,” Pierce said. “This program with its newer technology gives us one more tool in the toolkit.”

Entergy Texas, Inc. delivers electricity to more than 430,000 customers in 27 counties. It is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation. Entergy is an integrated energy company engaged primarily in electric power production and retail distribution operations. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, including nearly 10,000 megawatts of nuclear power. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.8 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.