FPL Hits Two-Year Mark for Underground Lines Pilot Program

Oct. 19, 2020
Pilot program to find cost-effective ways to replace neighborhood overhead power lines with more reliable underground lines in targeted communities.

Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) customers are benefiting from more reliable electric service because their neighborhood overhead power lines were moved underground as part of a pilot program the FPL is using to prepare for more widespread undergrounding in the years ahead.

The FPL launched its Storm Secure Underground Pilot Program two years ago to find cost-effective ways to replace neighborhood overhead power lines with more reliable underground lines in targeted communities. Trees and vegetation coming into contact with overhead power lines and equipment were the leading cause of outages when Hurricane Irma slammed Florida in 2017. Neighborhood power lines are chosen for the program based on past hurricane outage performance, a history of vegetation-related interruptions, and other reliability factors.

As of Oct. 1, the FPL has completed more than 160 Storm Secure Underground Program projects for customers in neighborhoods throughout the company's 35-county service area. More than 53 miles of overhead lines have been placed underground as part of the pilot. More than 100 additional projects are under construction.

"Putting the power lines underground has improved reliability and peace of mind in our community," said customer Tammi Hellinger of Pinecrest in Miami-Dade County. "Our neighborhood has a lot of trees and we would often lose power during storms when branches would blow into overhead power lines. We were without power for a long time after Hurricane Irma. Placing the lines underground is much better."

Customer Rob Bird of Ormond Beach in Volusia County said: "This is definitely an improvement. I have not had a power outage since our lines were put underground in June and we've had plenty of thunderstorms. What matters most is having reliable power."

The pilot projects are helping the FPL prepare for more undergrounding in the coming years.

As part of the 10-year Storm Protection Plan approved by the Florida Public Service Commission, the FPL estimates that between 300 and 700 neighborhood power lines will be placed underground annually from 2021 to 2023.

Some of the lessons the FPL has already learned from the pilot are as follows:

  • Identifying more efficient design and construction practices based on real-world experience.
  • Determining customer preferences and finding better ways to communicate with them about upcoming projects in their neighborhoods.
  • Minimizing disruptions for customers by using technology such as ground-penetrating radar to detect and avoid other underground facilities, such as telephone and cable lines and water mains.
  • Reducing inconveniences to customers by putting power lines, where feasible, in public rights-of-way rather than in private property.
  • Implementing cloud-based technology to better manage customer outreach and construction projects.
  • Identifying design and construction efficiencies by evaluating projects at the feeder, or main, power line level rather than selecting standalone neighborhood power lines.

"The Storm Secure Underground Program pilot is one of the many ways we demonstrate our commitment to continuously improving the safe and reliable power we provide to our customers," said FPL Senior Vice President of Power Delivery Manny Miranda. "As we prepare to put more neighborhood power lines underground in the coming decade, we are learning valuable lessons from the pilot that will benefit all of our customers for years to come."

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