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FPL and LCEC strengthen grid for storm season

  • Jul 3, 2019
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Electric utility companies Florida Power & Light and Lee County Electric Cooperative have been making improvements in customers' service reliability to prepare for the 2019 hurricane season.

Both companies, which together serve much of Southwest Florida, have placed significant focus on strengthening power lines and poles, trimming trees near power lines and installing smart technology along the energy grid, according to press releases from FPL and LCEC.

"Our ongoing investments in strengthening the grid and using advanced smart grid technology continue to help us deliver electricity our customers can count on in good weather and bad," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL.

Naples and Bonita Springs will be impacted by FPL's initiatives. Between the two areas, eight main power lines will be strengthened, 437 miles of power lines will be cleared of tree branches and vegetation, and 5,813 power poles that no longer meet FPL's standards will be inspected, according to the FPL press release.

The improvements look similar for LCEC, which serves five counties, including parts of Lee and Collier. Like FPL, a vegetation management program aims to clear tree branches from areas of utility use. In addition to the physical inspections of poles and wires, LCEC has made upgrades to their facilities and added two power substations, the LCEC press release stated.

"The electric grid serving five counties throughout Southwest Florida has proven to stand up against the strongest of hurricanes and remain reliable year-round," said Dennie Hamilton, president and CEO of LCEC.

After learning valuable lessons in 2017 from Hurricane Irma – a storm that was believed to have caused the largest hurricane evacuation in U.S. history – LCEC has worked to improve their social media resources and coordination of tree-trimming crews, as well as provide lodging for out-of-town crews when needed, according to the press release.

For FPL, Irma inspired a three-year pilot program, the Storm Secure Underground Program. The program is focused on areas that experienced power outages during Irma and Matthew.

It aims to find less expensive ways to bury neighborhood power lines, which are less likely to be impacted during severe weather, the FPL press release stated.

"We'll be studying (the pilot program) to determine how under-grounding benefits our system in day-to-day operations as well as in severe weather," said Marie Bertot, an FPL spokeswoman.

Two projects are planned in Bonita Springs and 20 are planned for Naples in 2019, according to the press release. These projects refer to the process of burying neighborhood power lines as part of the Storm Secure program, Bertot said.

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