The state of Florida is no stranger to hurricane season, and in recent years it seems like storm prepping and recovery has become a late-summer routine for this part of the country. While the fatality and injury count has been remarkably low, Hurricane Irma left a trail of devastation in its wake that’s racked up billions of dollars in damage. Remarkably, Florida reportedly evaded a worse-case scenario with Irma by the skin of their teeth, since many of the state’s major cities weren’t in the storm’s direct path.
Nonetheless, Floridians endured the wrath of Hurricane Irma, and continue feeling its effects. After a preliminary assessment, Florida’s smart state power grid suffered what’s described as “critical damage” in a report from The Atlantic. The damage sustained has left approximately 6.7 million households and businesses without power, with Florida Power & Light (the state’s largest electric utility provider) reporting over five million outages on their end alone.
Florida Power & Light has worked tirelessly to restore power, and is facing a more daunting task surrounding the wholesale reconstruction of its state-of-the-art smart grid along the state’s west coast. The process will reportedly require weeks of continuous, costly, and dangerous restoration operations for power plants, substations, and transmission lines (just to mention a few aspects). At the time of its construction in 2013, FPL’s smart grid was considered the most advanced of its kind in the country. The project cost the company upwards of $3 billion, with the US Department of Energy awarding FPL a sum of $200 million towards constructing the smart grid as a condition from the 2009 Recovery Act funds.
The system’s smart technologies like sensors and automated switched, enabled FPL to prevent outages and mitigate other grid-related issues that arise from stormy conditions during Hurricanes Matthew and Hermine in 2016. 99 percent of FPL customers affected by Matthew last year reported having their power restored within 48 hours, whereas customers affected by Hermine had power return within hours.
Obviously, Irma was more destructive than either of those storms, with FPL reporting damage to the most essential and central components of its west coast grid. The company knows repairs will be exceedingly difficult compared to last year’s hurricanes, which typically entails patching up infrastructure on the outer-limits of the grid’s system. While the creation of such a resilient smart energy grid may be a worthwhile investment for the long term and in more predictable storms, Irma’s wrath was a grim reminder that any form of technology (regardless of how advanced it is) can still succumb to the wrath of mother nature.
Filed Under: M2M (machine to machine)