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Florida Continues 'Smart Grid' Switch Installation

Florida Power & Lighting is in the process of installing 20,000 automatic lateral switch devices across the state, which are estimated to have saved crews more than 100,000 “field visits” last year.

(TNS) -- Florida Power & Light says new technology is making aggravating power outages, such as those caused by a fallen tree branch or palm frond on a neighborhood line, less likely throughout its 35-county service area.

Although crews will still have to respond to major outages caused by a lightning strike, for example, Florida's largest electrical utility says it is installing “smart grid devices” on neighborhood lines that can automatically fix more common outages and quickly restore service — a task that previously could only be done manually.

On Wednesday, FPL showed area media the installation of an “automatic lateral switch” on a power line on Bradenton's 45th Street East that serves Bashaw Elementary School, a Southern Manatee Fire Rescue station and more than 2,600 homes and businesses.

FPL spokeswoman Eve McConnell said the breadbox-size devices are part of an ongoing $2 billion investment to build “a stronger, smarter grid.”

Without the devices, crews in a cherry-picker truck would have to physically check on an outage and restore service, similar to a homeowner having to replace a fuse in a breaker, FPL senior line specialist Richard Britt said. The work could take about 15 to 20 minutes, plus however long the crew may require to drive to the location.

FPL is in the process of installing 20,000 ALS devices across the state. It estimates that such upgrades to its system saved FPL crews more than 100,000 “field visits” last year.

Britt said the devices have the nickname among FPL crews as the “trip saver.”

FPL says that, since 2006, it has invested more than $2 billion on its “storm hardening” efforts to improve reliability, including the installation of concrete power poles that can withstand winds of up to 130 mph. The utility says “smart grid” upgrades saved it $46 million in operational expenses last year and $30 million in 2014.

©2016 Sarasota Herald-Tribune, Fla. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.