MIAMI (CBSMiami) – June 1st was the start of hurricane season and that means we all need to be prepared including Florida Power and Light.
Hurricanes put a great deal of stress on many of the things we need most like power and cell phone usage.
That’s why FPL is improving its storm response with the lessons learned from Hurricane Matthew.
The last time FPL experienced a major storm was 2005 with Category 4 Hurricane Wilma.
During a weeklong hurricane drill earlier this year, FPL’s CEO Eric Silagy highlighted how much has changed since then. They have spent $3 billion hardening their network and getting rid of those wooden poles that could snap in half during a storm.
Silagy explained “88-percent of our system is either steel or concrete on a transmission level. By the end of the decade all of it will be completed.”
They have also rolled out automated systems that re-route energy during a storm. Last year, the improvements were tested as Florida experienced its first hurricanes in a decade.
“Not a single pole went over because of high winds,” Silagy said proudly.
FPL rolled out new technology in 2016 with drones flying high over flooded coastal areas right after Hurricane Matthew.
Eric Schwartz, a manager with FPL’s Smart Grid and Innovation, is in charge of the drone program.
“It allows us to get up in the air, inaccessible areas, flooded areas that have down poles, wires or trees, that will not allow us to get into a neighborhood, to see how bad our overhead equipment is damaged,” he explained. This year they are looking at robots, staged at substations to access damage as well.
Matthew also exposed a logistic problem for FPL.
The major storm threatened the entire East Coast. With an army of 14,000 responders, FPL had a real problem.
“It became a challenge for hotels. People coming from Orlando and things of that nature. So this is a solution to that problem,” explained Kevin Milford, who oversees facilities hardening for FPL.
The solution this year is a mobile bunkhouse. They can sleep 16 at a time and be dropped on the edge of a worksite cutting travel time while speeding up recovery time. Thousands can now be housed with little notice.
While FPL’s investment in infrastructure did well last year, it was only tested by category one storms. They haven’t experienced a major storm since 2005. That means that they do expect to do better in a major storm but you still should be prepared to be without power for several days.
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