Safety.

Before moving to Chicago nearly four years ago, we lived in Upstate New York near Utica. Located somewhat close to the geographic center of New York State, the township was the site of many high voltage distribution lines coming together at a very large switching yard a few of miles from the house. Marching northward from the switching yard, toward the Canadian border where power flowed from Hydro Quebec, was one of the highest voltage lines in the nation, a single 765kV circuit. On more than one occasion I took a couple of fluorescent light bulbs along for the ride and stood underneath the buzzing lines. The light bulbs lit up in my hand. Turns out I wrote about one of my field trips, back in 2012.

Back in 1980, Ralph Waite (from “The Waltons”) starred in a movie called “Ohms”. The drama addressed concerns a farmer has about the power lines being built across his farmland. I watched the movie with great interest; it was one of the first times my mom and dad let me stay up until 11:00 PM. My dad made the final decision, since he knew I was very interested in these things and was fascinated with the movie. He watched it with me. There’s a brief clip from the movie on YouTube.

During one of our rides over the summer, I noticed a high voltage power line passing pretty close to a residential sub-division in Channahon, Illinois. As we drove along US 6 I said to my husband, “those power lines are really close to those houses. I’m surprised they built the houses *that* close”.

He mentioned it must have been an optical illusion since we were over a half mile away from where I spotted the power lines, so we drove around the subdivision and surrounding area and concluded that no, they were really close.

While researching other power lines I spotted during today’s ride, I found this photo on the Internet. These were the power lines I was referring to back during our ride over the summer.

Photo from electrical-engineering-portal.com

Here’s some perspective from a satellite view.

The housing development seems rather new so I wandered around on Google a bit to see if there was any discussion about the houses being so close to these power lines, but I haven’t been able to find anything. Now, I have no investment in any of this other than a dorky interest in the subject, but I’m still quite surprised at how close the residences are to this (seemingly) 765kV power line. Side note: I haven’t confirmed the voltage of these lines, they could be 365kV or 500kV, but the size of the towers seem to be the higher 765kV, but I don’t know this for sure.

I don’t know if there have ever been any conclusive studies on the health effects of prolonged exposure to these high powered transmission lines. I know I’m fascinated by them and have been around them on and off for years, but I have little interest in living close to them. Would I farm under them? Probably. Would I swim in a pool near them? Probably not.

The reason I went down this rabbit hole is because I realized that I’ve been in all 50 states and while I certainly haven’t seen every single power transmission circuit in the country, I don’t think that I’ve seen towers with such big “cat ears” like we have here in Illinois.

Today I took a photo of a glimpse of a sunset today, with a 345kV circuit crossing the Illinois prairie along the way.

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