PRESS RELEASE | Oceanit’s BURROW to Modernize America’s Aging Power Grid

Energy, Press Release, Technology

Oceanit is partnering with the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) and the University of Houston Cullen College of Engineering to improve the critical process of undergrounding power lines.

Honolulu, HI – The wildfire that swept through Lahaina, Maui, in August 2023 was the deadliest U.S. wildfire in more than a century. 1,700 buildings were destroyed, and at least 100 people perished in the blaze that was caused by damaged power lines that ignited dry grasses below. 80 mph winds snapped the overhead power line and drove the resulting fire seaward. Within 12 hours, the town of Lahaina was consumed by the fire.

The Maui tragedy emphasized the importance of updating America’s aging power grid, particularly via the “Undergrounding” process. This process involves relocating vulnerable overhead cables (that provide electrical power or telecommunications) to below-ground lines and installing new infrastructure underground. Undergrounding is critical to help prevent fires and make power lines less susceptible to inclement climate impact from wildfires, high winds, storm events, lightning strikes, or heavy snow or ice storms.

Historically, undergrounding power lines involves slow and costly drilling, tunneling, or trenching—all methods that must painstakingly avoid hitting existing utilities and other below-ground obstacles. Oceanit’s BURROW will reduce undergrounding risks and costs with AI-driven forward mapping and obstacle avoidance, accelerating installation and boosting infrastructure resilience and community safety.

BURROW (Borehole Underground Reconnaissance and Real-time Obstacle Wayfinder) utilizes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) networked with AI-infused subterranean drill heads, enabling them to detect and avoid existing utilities, such as cables or pipes, in the tunneling path. The sensor suite generates high-resolution underground imaging and real-time AI guidance for drilling paths.

BURROW is a key innovation to modernize America’s power infrastructure using climate-resilient, cost-effective, and high-speed undergrounding technology. This effort is part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E)’s Grid Overhaul with Proactive, High-Speed Undergrounding for Reliability, Resilience, and Security (GOPHURRS) program and is partnered with Houston’s Cullen College of Engineering. GOPHURRS complements the President’s “Investing in America” agenda and recent National Infrastructure and Climate legislation.

“BURROW will play a pivotal role in setting a new standard for resilient electrical grids across the U.S., significantly enhancing energy security and safety. The deployment of underground power lines will not only dramatically reduce power outages but also safeguard against life-threatening incidents, such as the recent Lahaina fires on Maui,” stated Dr. Patrick Sullivan, Oceanit’s Founder and CEO.

In the U.S., aging power lines contribute to frequent and prolonged power outages, costing the U.S. economy an estimated $79 billion annually. Climate change-induced extreme weather events further exacerbate these issues, resulting in downed lines, power failures, and widespread outages. BURROW can reduce undergrounding expenses by 50% while expediting installation.

Oceanit’s prior innovations in AI-driven drilling technology were developed for major international energy companies to increase precision drilling while reducing costs. BURROW integrates prior knowledge and intellectual property to deliver an intelligent drill mapping technology that minimizes environmental disruption during underground power line installations, making traditional excavation practices that disturb large surface areas obsolete. To read the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) release, visit: https://arpa-e.energy.gov/news-and-media/press-releases/us-department-energy-announces-34-million-improve-reliability.

About Oceanit

Founded in 1985, Oceanit is a “Mind to Market” company that creates disruptive technology from fundamental science. Utilizing the unique discipline of Intellectual Anarchy, Oceanit reimagines innovation to break the bonds of normal and solve the impossible — delivering technologies to the market that impact humans and society. Oceanit’s diverse teams work across aerospace, healthcare, energy, and industrial/ consumer technologies, as well as on environmental and climate matters.  Through engineering and scientific excellence, Oceanit transforms fundamental science into impactful, market-focused technologies used around the world.