Florida Power & Light Co. last week marked the end of the 2015 hurricane season by reminding its customers to stay vigilant despite the fact they were spared the devastation of a major hurricane this year. Tropical Storm Erika, however, did provide a stark reminder of the need for ongoing preparation and continued investment in strengthening FPL's electric grid.
"It's difficult to imagine that it's been a full decade since a major hurricane struck Florida," said Eric Silagy, president and chief executive officer of FPL. "While we are fortunate to not have experienced a major storm this year, we can never forget the importance of being prepared, and Tropical Storm Erika provided us with an opportunity to test our storm readiness. At FPL, we train and prepare year-round, and continue to make the electric system more resilient to severe weather by making the necessary investments in poles, wire and vegetation management as well as state-of-the art smart grid technology."
FPL began its grid-strengthening efforts following the historic 2004-05 storm season, when seven hurricanes struck the company's service area in an 18-month span. Since that time, FPL has invested more than $2 billion to strengthen its system, including upgrading poles and power lines serving critical community facilities, such as police and fire stations, hospitals and 911 centers that are essential to getting a community back on its feet following a major storm. By 2016, FPL plans to strengthen every main power line serving critical community facilities in its 35-county service area.
How FPL strengthens the grid
FPL employs several strategies to strengthen or "harden" its infrastructure, including:
- Strengthening more than 600 main power lines (feeders) serving key community facilities, including hospitals, police and fire stations, 911 communication centers
- Clearing vegetation from 120,000 miles of power lines
- Inspecting 1.2 million utility poles, restoring or replacing those that no longer meet FPL's standards for strength
- Installing advanced smart grid and cutting-edge technologies – including 4.8 million smart meters and more than 12,000 other intelligent devices – to reduce power outages, speed restoration and provide customers with unprecedented information to manage their energy use
- Installing flood mitigation and monitoring equipment at certain flood-prone electric substations, an industry lesson learned following Superstorm Sandy
"Customers are experiencing first-hand the benefits of our stronger, smarter grid," said Silagy. "As an example, during Tropical Storm Erika, and this year's especially active season of thunderstorms and lightning, the investments we have been making to strengthen our overhead lines systemwide resulted in enhanced performance by approximately 40 percent."
FPL was recognized in the utility industry for its advancements in building a stronger, smarter, more reliable and storm-resilient electric grid. This year, FPL was named the winner of the 2015 ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Excellence Award by PA Consulting Group, an international firm that analyzes electric utility performance across the United States. The ReliabilityOne™ National Reliability Excellence Award is given to the regional award recipient that has demonstrated sustained leadership, innovation and achievement in the area of electric reliability; FPL received the ReliabilityOne™ Award for Outstanding Reliability Performance in the Southeast region of the U.S. FPL also won the Outstanding Technology and Innovation in the U.S. award.