Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) marked the end of this year's relatively quiet hurricane season on Nov. 30 by moving aggressively forward with its accelerated storm-strengthening program, which the Florida Public Service Commission (FPSC) approved on Nov. 14. FPL will invest approximately half a billion dollars over the next three years to continue to enhance the overall strength of its electric system against high wind associated with hurricanes and other major weather events with the ultimate goal of reducing outages and more quickly restoring power.
"We continue to invest hundreds of millions of dollars in the latest technologies to strengthen our electric grid and prepare year-round for severe weather that can have an impact our electric system," said Eric Silagy, president of Florida Power and Light Company. "The investments we're making today will not only help minimize outages before they occur, but help us more quickly restore electric service should a loss of power take place."
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During the six-month 2013 Hurricane Season that began June 1, Tropical Storm Andrea was the only named storm to affect FPL's service area. During the first week of June, FPL deployed a team of more than 2,400 line personnel to respond to scattered power outages caused by Tropical Storm Andrea's high-wind gusts and heavy rains. FPL restored electric service to 96 percent of the approximately 50,000 customers who experienced power outages during the storm within eight hours, and the average outage duration was 78 minutes.
The performance in recent years of FPL's electric distribution system, particularly during a number of tropical systems that have impacted its service network, clearly demonstrates that the company's investment is resulting in fewer and shorter power outages. In addition, under normal weather conditions, these strengthened power lines have experienced a reduction in the frequency of daily outages by up to 40 percent. Strengthening includes installing additional poles, replacing poles, sometimes with concrete or steel, and/or moving equipment underground.
Following lessons learned from Superstorm Sandy, as well as from Florida storm activity, FPL began installing storm-surge protection enhancements at 25 substations in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier, Lee, Charlotte, Sarasota, Brevard and St. Johns counties. These upgrades, which include adding flood monitors, flood-resistant doors, impact windows and sump pumps, are expected to be completed in 2013. In addition, FPL will complete the installation of flood monitors at more than 200 substations throughout the company's 35-county service area by June 2014. The monitors will provide real-time data to make decisions about how to protect critical equipment at substations during storm surges, help prevent loss of power to customers during a storm and speed restoration efforts.
In addition, new smart-grid technology provides FPL with greater visibility into power outages. More thorough and expedient information about the electric system can help FPL better isolate power issues, more effectively deploy crews and more accurately forecast estimated times of restoration. Computer modeling, based on historical data, helps generate a preliminary overall restoration estimate just hours after a storm. This early estimate is intended to help customers and communities make initial plans until actual damage reports from the field are complete. FPL updates this early estimate to reflect the better and more current information available.
FPL's recently approved accelerated strengthening effort builds upon the approved program the company has been executing since 2007. From 2007 through 2012, FPL invested a total of nearly $460 million to strengthen the electricity-delivery backbone, including upgrades to infrastructure serving facilities that are critical to communities. FPL focuses on poles and wires that serve critical infrastructure – such as hospitals, 911 centers, police and fire stations - so that they are in the best possible position to continue their essential functions during and immediately after a storm.
"We've been fortunate to have eight-consecutive years without a direct strike from a hurricane," said Silagy. "We know it's not if a hurricane will significantly impact Florida, but when and where it's going to hit. That's why it's important to have an individual plan and why we invest, train and prepare year round."