US utility Florida Power & Light Company (FPL) tested its readiness in responding to a storm with similar characteristics to that of Hurricane Wilma, which disturbed services in 2005.
The annual week-long storm drill highlighted that FPL’s 3,000 employees and the company’s partners are "ready to respond together" during a storm.
The drill included the use of:
- Drones using high-definition cameras and infrared technology to survey overhead power lines and equipment for damage;
- Mobile applications to help power restoration workers to acquire real time damage information and restoration activities;
- Automated switches to prevent power outages or isolate an issue to speed restoration efforts;
- The Mobile Command Center and Community Response Vehicles, which allowed staff to direct restoration efforts in the hardest hit areas; and
- The company's network of smart meters, which allowed restoration crews to remotely confirm that power was restored before a crew left a neighborhood.
- FPL used robots to assess substations
Eric Silagy, CEO of FPL, said investments continuously being made towards smart grid technologies and infrastructure will continue to improve the utility’s response time to outages caused by storms.
For instance, the $3 billion investments made towards smart grids since 2006 has helped restore services to more than 2 million customers within a day, during last year’s hurricane Irma.
The utility’s smart grid efforts also helped:
- To avoid 546,000 customer interruptions with smart grid switches during Irma
- Replaced less than 4,600 damaged poles, compared with 12,400 after Hurricane Wilma; and
- Re-energised all substations in one day, compared with five days after Hurricane Wilma.
"… 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."
During Irma, 69% of hardened overhead lines, 82% of non-hardened main lines and 18% of underground lines experienced an outage hence the need to implement a pilot testing how underground lines can be installed and used in a cost effective manner to avoid outages during storms.