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Grid Hardening Vs Grid Resilience
In the fall of 2017, Hurricane Irma knocked out power to 9 out of 10 customers of Florida Power and Light in 35 counties throughout the state. Ten million people were without power.
That was after FLP had spent close to $3 billion to makes its grid stronger and smarter.
Why did so many customers lose power? Were the investments worth it?
FPL thinks so. Because the Irma restoration effort was four times faster than for Hurricane Wilma back in 2005. That’s real resilience, thanks to grid hardening.
How FLP Hardened Their Grid
The massive investment made over more than a decade and paid for through community surcharges, included:
- Inspection, upgrade or replacement of more than 1.2 million rotting wooden power line poles. In most cases, the wood ones were replaced with sturdy concrete poles.
- Strengthening of 600 main power lines and burying of 450 main lines.
- Installation of 4.8 million smart meters and another 36,000 intelligent devices
Even so, FPL officials had warned that these changes wouldn’t prevent outages in the face of a devastating storm.
How Did It Help?
Millions were without power. FLP put 21,500 workers in the field to get the lights back on. Here’s how the hardening efforts helped those workers succeed so much faster than a decade before.
- The concrete poles withstood high winds and flying debris. Fewer than 2,000 poles went down. Those were mostly local community poles that weren’t part of the restoration effort.
- The strengthening of main lines meant fewer “big fixes” needed to happen.
- Perhaps most interesting was the introduction of smart meters and other smart monitoring devices. This deployment of technology enabled technicians to pinpoint problems and resolve them quickly. In some cases, the monitors also prevented infrastructure damage during excessive flooding.
As long as power lines are exposed to vegetation and flying debris, no amount of hardening can completely stormproof your grid. But you can get back up faster through systematic infrastructure upgrades and the introduction of smart monitoring throughout your grid.
While not every part of the U.S. faces Hurricanes, your grid can be threatened by tornadoes, wildfires, flooding or ice storms. Make monitoring part of your grid-strengthening strategy. To discuss your options and collaborate on solutions, talk to experts at Qualitrol.