Florida Power & Light yesterday presented to the Florida Public Service Commission its Storm Secure Plan, a five-point program to substantially strengthen the company’s electric grid against future hurricanes.
Since the end of last year’s hurricane season, FPL has been working on initiatives to bolster its electric network, especially in light of forecasts for continued heightened hurricane activity.
“Just as Florida’s weather is changing, so are we. We are not going to get there overnight, but we are committed to getting better, every single day,” said FPL President Armando Olivera. “Our customers have gone through two horrible years of storms, and we understand their frustration and dissatisfaction. We can’t prevent hurricanes. Nor can we prevent all the damage that comes with them. But there are additional steps that we can take to prepare for these hurricanes, to reduce the number of storm-related outages, and to restore service quickly. Our Storm Secure plan does just that.”
“After much discussion with local leaders, legislators, regulators and other state leaders, we have developed a five-point plan to strengthen our electrical system. These are near-term and long-term commitments, and working together, we will make a difference in better serving our communities,” said Olivera.
Following are highlights of FPL’s five-point Storm Secure Plan:
- Hardening the electric network – FPL’s network today meets or exceeds all required safety standards prescribed by the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC). Going forward, FPL will adopt NESC extreme wind velocity zone criteria as its new standard for all new distribution construction and system upgrades (up to 150 mph in certain areas). FPL’s conversion to these higher standards will take years to complete. Priority will be given to distribution feeders or main lines serving critical infrastructure facilities and major thoroughfares where businesses that provide basic necessities such as fuel and food are located. Most of FPL’s transmission facilities as well as its substations already comply with extreme wind velocity criteria, but those that do not will also be upgraded over time.
The company is also working with independent consultant KEMA to develop a ten-year comprehensive plan for all infrastructure hardening projects. FPL expects to complete this comprehensive road map to improving long-term resiliency of the electric network later this year.
- Investing in underground conversions – FPL is committed to increasing its underground facilities. More than 37% of its current system is already underground. FPL will further its commitment by offering to invest 25% of the cost of converting overhead lines to underground for local government-sponsored conversions. By this action FPL is encouraging local governments to take the necessary steps to invest in conversion.
In addition, FPL will enhance existing efforts with local governments to strongly encourage ordinances requiring developers to provide underground electrical service for all new subdivisions, developments and projects. Furthermore, FPL will support legislation that would require similar action statewide. The company will also support efforts by municipalities to obtain federal or state funding to assist in underground conversions.
- Pole inspections - FPL currently uses a three-pronged approach to its inspection of wood poles. The company will modify its pole inspection, record-keeping and reporting so that its more than 1 million wood poles are inspected on a ten-year cycle. FPL’s proposal is consistent with the PSC staff recommendation issued last week.
- Line clearing/vegetation management – FPL is increasing its line-clearing activities by 27% in 2006. Each year, the company expects to complete 75% of its planned feeder line clearing by July 31. Power lines serving critical infrastructure facilities will be cleared every year by May 31, prior to the start of the hurricane season.
No level of hardening an infrastructure or aggressive line clearing programs will address all trees that are bound to cause trouble during a hurricane. Most trees and other vegetation on private property that pose a threat during a hurricane throughout FPL’s service territory are beyond the company’s control. For this reason, FPL will continue to promote its “Right Tree, Right Place” program and strongly emphasize that customers select the right kind of trees to plant in backyards and that they plant them away from power lines.
- Post-hurricane repairs and targeted facility upgrades - FPL customers need to be assured that the damage to FPL’s electric grid due to the catastrophic 2005 storm season has been fully repaired before we enter the next hurricane season. The company is committed to doing just that. FPL will continue its post-hurricane follow-up work to repair or replace distribution, transmission and substation facilities that were damaged. Additionally, certain near-term work is being performed to strengthen targeted facilities prior to the onset of the 2006 hurricane season.
FPL’s adoption of the NESC extreme wind-loading criteria for distribution facilities will be the first for an electric utility operating in the United States. This will, undoubtedly, have profound long-term benefits to all FPL’s customers and the communities it serves.
“We are confident that our Storm Secure Plan will make our system more resilient to hurricanes and result in fewer outages during severe weather events,” said Olivera. “When outages do occur, service will be restored faster. We will be building a stronger and more reliable electrical infrastructure for the future.”