Power lines being hardened for storms
Florida Power & Light plans to spend $85 million this year hardening electrical lines for critical infrastructure.
BY JOHN DORSCHNER
Continuing to harden the power system to better withstand hurricanes, Florida Power & Light announced this year it’s strengthening the electrical lines around 14 hospitals and acute care facilities in Miami-Dade and 10 similar facilities in Broward.
The utility did not reveal how many miles of the system were being hardened this year, but Irene White, FPL’s director of customer support, said, ”Our plan is to strengthen critical infrastructure” such as hospitals and 911 dispatch centers.
The Storm Secure hardening program is now in its fourth year. The utility reported hardening 14 miles in 2006, 145 miles in 2007 and 270 miles in 2008 — adding up to 270 miles. FPL’s distribution system has about 41,000 miles of above ground lines.
The utility plans to spend $85 million on strengthening the system this year, up from $54.6 million last year.
White said FPL’s plan was to be cost-effective in strengthening the structure. “It doesn’t make sense to spend money strengthening a lateral [line] to an irrigation pump.”
Also targeted are lines along major thoroughfares that have gas stations, automatic teller machines, supermarkets and restaurants.
Systemwide, the utility continues installing stronger poles and other measures to around 35 911 call centers, one emergency operations center, two police stations, one fire station, 40 major highway crossings and 11 power lines along major thoroughfares.
For 2009, FPL said it plans to trim trees and clear vegetation along 1,440 miles in Miami-Dade and 980 miles in Broward. The utility’s plan is to trim trees along major lines every three years and along neighborhood lines once every six years.
Overall, FPL plans to spend $68.3 million in 2009 on tree-trimming, up from $57.9 million in 2008.
Company contractors also will be inspecting 12,830 poles in Broward and 18,450 poles in Miami-Dade as part of its program to check the durability of all of its 1.2 million poles over an eight-year period. FPL said it plans to spend $32 million to $42 million this year on pole inspections.
Preparing for the 2009 hurricane season, FPL’s media efforts are focusing on the Internet. An interactive map now available at fpl.com/maps show what hardening efforts, tree-trimming and pole inspections are happening in neighborhoods that serve its 4.5 million customers.
The company is also exploring the use of a blog and Twitter to communicate with customers during storms. FPL representatives who go into the field after storms will also be given digital cameras, and some of those photos, too, could be available on the Web.