Clickability tracking pixel

New Utility Control Center in Florida Will be Able to Withstand Hurricanes

Florida Power & Light Co.’s “high-tech hub” will collect and analyze up to 18 trillion data signals per year and predict when a power failure may occur.

by Susan Salisbury, The Palm Beach Post, Fla. / January 20, 2017

(TNS) — Florida Power & Light Co. executives donned shiny silver hard hats and dug into the soil with gleaming shovels as they broke ground Wednesday on a $42 million distribution control center that will be built to withstand a Category 5 hurricane.

The 71,000-square-foot facility off Military Trail north of 45th Street in West Palm Beach slated to open by the summer of 2018 will be used 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

It will serve as a “high-tech hub” as data comes in from throughout FPL’s 35-county territory each day and be equipped to house up to 100 FPL employees and contractors during storms. The new center will be next door to FPL’s Command Center, a $3.8 million Category 5-hardened 10,000-square-foot building that opened in 2012.

“Today is really exciting for all of us. I am particularly excited because we have been working on this for a long time,” FPL CEO and President Eric Silagy said. “This past year was just another reminder about how Mother Nature can really throw you curve balls, and you always have to be prepared.

“Now today is a beautiful day, a blue sky day as we call it in the business, which we love, but it doesn’t take very long to remind us how things can quickly change. That is really what this new facility is all about,” Silagy said.

During 2016’s Hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane to come ashore in Florida since 2005, more than 96,000 FPL customers lost power and were restored in less 24 hours. With Hurricane Matthew, 1.2 million customers experienced outages, and 98 percent were restored within 48 hours. Silagy attributed the quick restorations to teamwork.

In the past decade, FPL has invested more than $2 billion to make its power grid the strongest in America, and possibly the world, Silagy said. The utility has installed more than 40,000 smart grid devices and 5 million smart meters.

“Now the grid is actually talking to itself and the devices are talking to each other,” Silagy said.

Using algorithms FPL has developed, its employees are able to predict when a power failure may occur before it actually occurs, Silagy said, even if it is due to something such as a “voltage fluctuation” at a customer’s residence.

The new distribution center will serve as a place to collect and analyze roughly 17 trillion to 18 trillion data signals per year, Silagy said.

Manny Miranda, FPL’s senior vice president, power delivery, said, that since Hurricane Andrew struck 25 years ago, followed by the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, FPL has made significant investments in the grid and infrastructure, but realized it needed to harden its own facilities as well.

The new control center is part of a larger facilities hardening initiative which includes the construction of seven Category 5 service centers on the company’s existing properties, three Category 5 modular buildings to supplement existing service centers and retrofits for two Category 3 service centers.

The costs of all the new facilities around the state are included in the company’s new rates taking effect this year through 2019.

When the work is completed within the next couple of years, FPL will be able to house 1,000 employees and contractors during and after a storm, Miranda said. Approximately 80 employees who work at FPL distribution centers in Sarasota and Miami will be relocated to the new center.

On Wednesday, employees and others attending the groundbreaking had the opportunity to put on virtual reality gear and experience a 3D model of the future facility. The building will feature video display walls showing the status of FPL’s distribution system.

“The new control center will allow us to get the lights on faster following a storm,” Miranda said.

©2017 The Palm Beach Post (West Palm Beach, Fla.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Looking for the latest gov tech news as it happens? Subscribe to GT newsletters.

E.REPUBLIC Platforms & Programs