While this year’s hurricane season has ended, Gulf Power continues work to harden its infrastructure as we prepare for next year’s storm season. Investments to make our energy grid stronger and more resilient helps improve reliability for our customers in both good weather and bad while keeping costs low.
“With recent and ongoing hardening, substation upgrades and more smart grid investments, our customers are enjoying fewer outages than in any time in recent history,” said Mike Spoor, vice president of power delivery for Gulf Power. “We’re continuing to invest in improvements across Northwest Florida that will help keep the lights on for our customers through normal times and also help speed efforts to restore power during severe weather like hurricanes.”
Much of Gulf Power’s current storm hardening work focuses on projects to replace wooden transmission poles with concrete poles, which are stronger and able to withstand wind gusts of up to 140 mph, making them stronger and more resilient during severe storms. By the end of 2019 more than 80 concrete poles will be installed, with close to 100 concrete poles scheduled to be installed in 2020. In fact, four projects have already been completed in the Panama City area, with several hardening projects scheduled to begin in the Pensacola area in 2020.
Currently, Gulf Power is hardening a three-mile stretch between several substations in Fort Walton Beach, replacing 37 wooden poles with concrete poles. The project started during the summer and is expected to wrap up around Christmas. Another project to install more than 80 concrete poles along a transmission line in the rural area of Walton County started in October and will continue through 2020.
“Investments like changing out transmission poles to make our infrastructure more resilient during hurricane season means that even though there may be outages following a storm, we will be able to restore power more quickly to our customers,” added Spoor.
Gulf Power has invested more than $225 million in maintenance and infrastructure upgrades across the region as part of its storm hardening plan since 2007. And we will be spending more than $100 million this year through 2021 in hardening. In addition to replacing wooden transmission poles with concrete poles, storm hardening efforts include projects such as hardening our main line feeders serving critical infrastructure, hardening our substations, inspecting power poles, and clearing vegetation from power lines. These investments in the energy grid have improved reliability for the company’s 460,000 customers by more than 40% since 2010.
Since joining the NextEra Energy family this year, Gulf Power has also been able to team up with its sister company, Florida Power & Light Company, which serves 5 million customers. Through best practices, Gulf Power is able to use shared resources from FPL, which recently won a national reliability excellence award for the fourth time in five years.