FPL seeks approval for transmission storm hardening plan

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Florida Power & Light recently filed with the Florida Public Service Commission its 2016-2018 Storm Hardening Plan, in which the company said that total 2016-2018 annual transmission hardening costs are estimated to be $46 million to $51 million.

Transmission-related efforts will continue to focus on replacing all remaining wood transmission structures, the company said in its March 15 petition for approval of the plan. By year-end 2018, less than 5,000 wood structures will still be in place, resulting in a transmission structure population that is 93 percent steel and concrete, the company said.

While FPL’s storm hardening initiatives to date have produced a more storm resilient transmission and distribution (T&D) electrical grid, a significant amount of the distribution system has yet to be storm-hardened, FPL said.

Distribution-related efforts as part of the plan will result in 100 percent of FPL’s feeders serving critical infrastructure (CIF) — such as hospitals and fire stations — and community projects — including gas stations and pharmacies — being hardened by year-end 2016, FPL said.

Upon completing all CIF and community projects feeders this year, FPL said that its next step is to move forward with the task of hardening the about 60 percent of the company’s system-wide feeder network that will remain to be hardened and therefore is at greater risk of incurring storm damage until hardening is complete.

Beginning in 2016, FPL said that its next proposed phase of hardening addresses the remaining feeders in its system by targeting feeders with the largest disparity in current strength versus extreme wind loading — referred to as “wind zone” hardening — as well as substations without any hardened feeders — referred to as “geographic” hardening. Upon completion of its 2016-2018 plan, about 800 additional feeders will be strengthened to EWL, the company said.

Total estimated distribution feeder hardening costs for 2016 are estimated to be about $360 million, FPL said.

In 2017 and 2018, FPL said that it will continue with its wind zone and geographic feeder and highway crossing EWL hardening initiatives, targeting, for instance, 250-300 circuits annually. Additionally, in 2018, FPL said that it will initiate its EWL lateral hardening initiative and plans to harden 850-950 laterals. The total projected annual costs for that work are estimated to be $490 million for 2017, and $750 million for 2018.

In addition to completing all CIF and community projects feeders in 2016, the plan will also provide a system-wide feeder network that is 60 percent storm-hardened/underground at year-end 2018.

FPL also said that it must continue its efforts to storm-harden its T&D electrical grid, noting that tropical storms remain a constant threat. During 2013-2015, there were 32 named storms in the Atlantic, the company said, adding that the 30-year average for named Atlantic storms in a year is 12. Additionally, Florida remains the most hurricane-prone state in the nation and, with its coastline exposure, FPL is the most susceptible electric utility to storms within the state, FPL said.

“While we have been fortunate that FPL’s service territory has not been recently heavily impacted by named storms, we cannot reasonably rely upon continuing good fortune to shield us from major storm impacts in the future,” the company said.

FPL said that it expects a reduction in storm as well as non-storm — day-to-day — restoration costs as a result of its planned hardening activities.

Among other things, FPL said that its initiatives to strengthen its T&D electric system are consistent with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Grid Modernization Initiative, issued in March 2015, and its November 2015 Grid Modernization Multi-Year Program Plan, which recognize that “the grid we have today does not have the attributes necessary to meet the demands of the 21st century and beyond” and that the future grid will need to “deliver resilient, reliable, flexible, secure, sustainable, and affordable electricity to consumers.”

To date, FPL said that its hardening efforts have provided significant direct benefits to customers, and its initiatives have positioned the company well to achieve future grid strengthening objectives.

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