More than 10 years ago, hurricanes ripped down poles and power lines in Florida Power & Light Co’s (FPL) service area. To make the grid more resilient against storms and speed restoration, FPL has invested more than $2 billion since 2006 to harden its electric system. As a result, FPL has improved service reliability by about 25% in the last five years.
By strengthening its power lines, the energy company has been able to improve daily reliability. Today the hardened lines perform 40% better than those lines that have not been hardened.
By year-end 2016, the company expects to have strengthened every main power line serving critical community facilities in the 35 counties it serves. So far, FPL has hardened more than 600 main power lines, including those serving more than 700 critical facilities such as police and fire stations, hospitals, 911 centers and other key customers.
Increasing Storm Resilience
One of FPL’s key strategies within its storm-hardening plan is to inspect and replace poles that no longer meet the criteria for wind loading and strength. FPL maintains 1.2 million poles in its service area, and since 2006, the company has inspected more than 1.4 million poles.
Going forward, FPL plans to inspect 150,000 distribution poles and 65,000 transmission poles per year and then perform follow-up work when necessary. If the poles don’t meet certain strength criteria, they are tagged for replacement.
In key areas, the field crews are replacing wood poles with concrete or steel poles to make the system stronger. In addition, the line workers are replacing smaller distribution lines with larger wire to handle strong winds and protect the system from lightning.
To further harden its system, FPL is upgrading some of its main feeders, which serve thousands of customers at once. By replacing some of the key structures with concrete, the infrastructure has been able to stand its ground, even in severe weather.
Looking forward to the next three years, the energy company plans to expand its efforts to other main power lines. For example, FPL will upgrade those main power lines that have the biggest gap between current strength load and the highest wind potential, ensure all of its substations have at least one hardened line to increase resiliency and upgrade lines servicing neighborhoods.
By the end of 2018, 60% of FPL’s distribution main power lines will be hardened or placed underground. In addition, the company will continue to replace wood poles with steel or concrete poles.
Another way FPL is making its system more storm-resilient is by shortening the span between poles so the lines can better withstand severe weather. The span between the poles varies from one area to another, but in different areas of the state, there are thresholds for mile-per-hour winds.
Ramping Up Reliability
Over the last decade, FPL has focused on training its field workforce, hardening its system and strengthening the main power lines that serve its communities. As such, the energy company is committed to improving the resiliency of the system and providing reliability year-round.
“While no electric system can be made completely resistant to storms, and in particular hurricanes, our proposed storm-hardening plan builds on the billions of dollars we’ve invested to help significantly reduce the impact severe weather has on our system,” says Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “Our customers will continue to benefit from FPL’s system improvements, highlighted by a 40% improvement in everyday performance along strengthened power lines.”
The energy company recently announced its storm-hardening initiatives as part of its storm-hardening plan that it has filed with the Florida Public Service Commission. Within this plan, the company described the details of its three-year hardening program.
“FPL’s proposed three-year storm-hardening plan is an extension of our efforts during the past decade to strengthen the energy grid,” says Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL. “Stronger utility poles, better equipment and cutting-edge technology are helping our communities better withstand severe weather and recover more quickly after major storms.”
In addition to the continued strengthening of its electric system, FPL’s deployment of smart grid technology helps keep the lights on for customers year-round. FPL has installed more than 4.8 million smart meters on homes and businesses, and more than 36,000 advanced smart grid devices on its poles and wires. This technology enables FPL to continually monitor and assess the health of its system, predict and in some cases prevent outages for customers, and restore power faster when outages occur.
Through its efforts, FPL has been able to improve its reliability. To this end, the company has been recognized as having reliability performance almost 50% better than the national average. In turn, the energy company received the 2015 ReliabilityOne National Reliability Excellence Award from PA Consulting Group, a global management consulting firm that analyzes electric utility performance across the United States. The firm based its study on standard industry reliability statistics that measure the frequency and duration of electric power outages.
By focusing on increasing reliability, training its field workforce and hardening its system, FPL is on guard for the next severe storm that hits Florida. That way, the next time severe weather strikes, the field and office employees will be ready to spring into action.
Editor’s note: As a way to keep its customers informed about its storm-related outages, FPL updates its outage map regularly. To view FPL’s PowerTracker, visit www.fplmaps.com. To learn more about FPL’s proactive approach to storm response and restoration, look for the related article within the 2016 Lineman’s Supplement this October. Also, check out the photo gallery of lessons learned from storms on the Electric Utility Operations site.