HANOVER, N.H. (AP) – A Dartmouth College engineering professor and his business colleagues have invented a system they believe can cut down on power outages by melting ice from power lines.

The system enables utilities to increase the electrical resistance of a power line, heating it up to melt ice or prevent it from forming in the first place.

Professor Victor Petrenko; Dartmouth colleagues; and the company he founded, Ice Engineering LLC, plan to install a prototype of their variable resistance cable system this month in Russia.

“The beauty of the VRC system is that it’s fully customizable and is an affordable addition to the current manufacturing and installation process,” said Gabriel Martinez, Ice Engineering’s vice president. “And it works without causing any service interruption whatsoever.”

He said the system would not be useful in most power failures, because they are caused by falling trees or limbs, but he said in areas where trees are not a problem, the system could make a difference.

Ice Engineering plans to install and test a full-scale prototype in Orenburg, Russia, late this month. The company also is negotiating installations in other regions of Russia and in China.

Martinez says installing the system would add about 10 percent to the overall cost of installing or replacing power lines.

Utilities could trigger the system manually or program it to work at certain times and weather conditions.


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