Florida – Florida Governor Rick Scott, first responders, and energy industry leaders recently joined over 3,000 Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) employees for an annual storm drill testing the company’s response to a hypothetical hurricane.
The annual week-long drill tested employee’s response to a hypothetical storm, Hurricane Cobalt, that is similar to 2005’s Category 5 Hurricane Wilma and 1964’s Category 3 Hurricane Isbell.
“Last year, we witnessed firsthand the devastating effects of Mother Nature and how critically important it is to get Florida back on its feet as quickly as possible,” said president and CEO of FPL, Eric Silagy. “Hurricane Irma was precedent-setting for our company as we amassed the largest restoration force in U.S. history to get the lights back on for our customers. The benefits of our more than $3 billion investment in our grid over the past decade, along with our trained personnel, were clearly evident as more than 2 million customers had their lights back on within the first full day of our restoration efforts. Our company has a culture of continuous improvement, and with that in mind, we must continue to push ourselves to improve our ability to respond. That’s what FPL’s storm drill is all about.”
Over the years, FPL has invested in fortifying power poles, inspecting poles, and installing smart grid technology to help make the power grid more resilient. According to the company, these efforts sped power restoration after Hurricane Irma. The following points illustrate FPL’s response to Hurricane Irma compared to the response to Hurricane Wilma.
- Restored power to 50% of customers (2 million+) within one day, compared with five days after Hurricane Wilma.
- Avoided 546,000 customer interruptions with the use of smart grid technology.
- Replaced less than 4,600 damaged poles, compared with 12,400 after Hurricane Wilma.
- Re-energized every substation in one day, compared with five days after Hurricane Wilma.
Despite the good news, FPL and Governor Rick Scott illustrate the importance of hurricane preparedness.
“In Florida we are committed to providing every resource we can to Floridians during major storms,” said Scott. “Following Hurricane Irma, we mobilized the largest power restoration effort in our nation’s history. I was proud of the work of Florida’s utility providers who quickly restored power to our communities. As the upcoming hurricane season approaches, I cannot stress preparedness enough. I encourage every Floridian to plan and prepare for hurricane season.”
FPL considered the drill a critical part of its year-round response training. The drill involved several emergency operations centers and was part of a statewide exercise called HurrEX. The exercise, which took place at FPL’s command center in Riviera Beach, involved the simulation of hypothetical Hurricane Cobalt making a late landfall in Florida’s southwest coast on May 2 as a Category 2 storm. The hypothetical storm then exited the state near West Palm Beach.
During the simulation, FPL employees were evaluated on their response in areas such as operations, logistics, communications, and customer service. According to FPL, Gov. Scott and representatives from the National Guard observed and participated in the simulation.
FPL’s drill showcased technology used during Hurricane Irma. The following are examples of the types of technology used:
- Drones with high-definition cameras and infrared technology sought out damaged power lines and equipment.
- Mobile applications armed FPL restoration specialists with damage information and restoration activity.
- Automated switches, sped restoration efforts, helped prevent power outages, and helped specialists isolate issues.
- The Mobile Command Center and Community Response Vehicles allowed staff to direct help to the most damaged areas.
- FPL’s network of smart meters allowed crews to remotely confirm power restoration before leaving the newly restored area.
FPL also set up a mock staging site. During storms, staging sites are set up to allow restoration crews a place to eat, rest, refuel, and stock up on supplies. The drill was an opportunity for FPL to showcase its robots that can asses equipment at substations.
“We understand hurricanes are devastating forces of nature and power outages will occur; however, the significant investments we’ve made in recent years have aided FPL in our response to Hurricane Irma and future storms,” said Silagy. “We learned from past storms, including Hurricanes Hermine, Matthew, Irma and Maria, and continue to make adjustments to our storm response capabilities and enhancements to the energy grid. This puts us in the best possible position to quickly respond to outages and restore power to our customers.”
In the past 12 years, FPL invested $3 billion dollars to help strengthen its energy grid and improve reliability. The investment funded the following:
- Hardening over 860 main power lines serving hospitals, 911 centers, and police and fire stations.
- Clearing vegetation from over 15,000 miles of power lines each year.
- Inspecting 1.2 million power poles every eight years (approximately 150,000 poles each year).
- Upgrading and replacing poles that no longer meet FPL’s standards for strength.
- Installing over 5 million smart meters and 90,000 intelligent devices that predict, reduce, and prevent power outages, and help speed power restoration when it occurs.
FPL also released a list of actions to take in the event of another hurricane based on lessons learned from Hurricane Irma. FPL wants to work with local governments, community leaders, and customers to keep vegetation away from power lines and continue to make improvements to its power grid. According to FPL, steps have been taken to improve its website to make sure it can withstand extreme volumes of customer traffic. Finally, FLP is expecting to launch a pilot program to determine the cost-effectiveness of transitioning to underground power lines.
Photo courtesy Florida Power & Light Company
Copyright Southern Stone Communications 2018.