Sponsor Deadline
Posted: 3/2/2022

RFI - Underground Power Lines

The purpose of this RFI is to solicit input for a potential future ARPA-E research program focused on technologies to improve the resilience, reliability, and security of the medium voltage (MV) electric power distribution system by undergrounding power lines. The goals of this research effort would be to develop 1) reliable and safe construction and installation technologies for underground MV distribution systems that are cost-competitive to constructing overhead systems, 2) technologies for robust health monitoring and predictive maintenance of existing and new underground power distribution systems, and 3) approaches to enable rapid repair with minimal surface disruptions. ARPA-E is seeking information at this time regarding transformative, scalable, and rapidly deployable technologies that could: (a) Reduce the cost of civil works associated with overhead-to-underground conversion or the construction of new underground power lines close to existing buildings and active surface use (e.g. road traffic) while minimizing surface disruption. (b) Construct underground vaults and install conduits in various terrain types and geologic conditions cost-effectively while avoiding damage to existing underground infrastructure such as subways, gas pipes, potable water and sewer pipes, and telecommunication wires. (c) Dramatically reduce errors in the underground cable installation processes where failures are prone to occur (e.g. cable splices, installation of cables). (d) Improve the performance of installed systems with advanced sensing and data tools (e.g. monitoring and analyzing system health, locating point of failure quickly and precisely, detecting and categorizing incipient failures before they cause a catastrophic failure). (e) Repair a point of failure quickly and safely with minimal surface disruption for prompt power restoration in the event of a failure. ARPA-E is interested in learning about the barriers to implementing underground MV distribution systems and technological innovations required to overcome such barriers. ARPA-E would also like to be informed about the priorities of potential technology development areas in order to create the most impactful potential program to overcome such barriers.

Response Date: April 1, 2022

Funding Type