PENSACOLA, Fla. – Gulf Power is stepping up its efforts to install even more smart grid devices on the energy system to help reduce outage times for customers.

Called an automated lateral switch (ALS), the device is placed on power poles to help detect a power outage on a line. In many cases, the ALS can help improve the energy grid’s ability to automatically restore power, decreasing the number of customers affected by outages and preventing temporary issues on the grid, such as a tree branch that falls across a line without breaking it, from becoming extended outages.

“We are deploying these smart grid devices across Northwest Florida to help improve reliability for our customers, both in good weather and bad,” said Mike Spoor, vice president of power delivery for Gulf Power. “We understand how challenging a power outage can be, no matter the length of time, and our team is working hard to provide safe, reliable energy that our customers can count on.”

This automated smart grid device can also reduce the need to send out a Gulf Power lineworker to evaluate the outage and manually restore service, which improves safety and reduces costs for customers. In fact, Gulf Power expects to reduce its annual customer outage time once the 5,000-plus units are in service across Northwest Florida by the end of 2020.

Shortly after the integration with NextEra Energy earlier this year, Gulf Power began installing the ALS devices across the system, and has installed 1,400 over the last six months to help make the grid smarter as we move through storm season. Gulf Power engineers worked with peers from its sister company Florida Power & Light Company (FPL), also owned by NextEra Energy, to learn more about the devices and best practices in integrating the technology into the energy grid. Detailed information and training about the ALS devices were shared with Gulf Power lineworkers, the distribution control center and engineers prior to installing them on the system.

FPL, which serves more than 5 million customers throughout Florida, is one of the leading energy companies using smart grid technology, with more than 80,000 ALS and thousands of other smart devices installed across its system. The automated smart switches installed by FPL helped the company avoid more than 1.3 million interruptions for its customers in 2018 alone.

“The collaboration between our teams of lineworkers and engineers to get 1,400 units installed as we moved into storm season has been tremendous,” Spoor said. “We have already seen what a positive difference this technology has made for our sister company’s customers, and look forward to continuing to invest in this technology to improve our own customers’ experience.”

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