Florida Power & Light broke ground on a new control center designed to sustain category 5 hurricanes. It’s part of the company's $2 billion, decade-long infrastructure hardening plan, which includes facilities upgrades across the state.
Manny Miranda is the company’s senior vice president in charge of power delivery. He says the distribution center upgrade is part of FPL's ongoing efforts to improve its response to storms.
"Since Hurricane Andrew struck 25 years ago this year and we had the historic hurricane season in 2004 and 2005, we have really made significant investments in our infrastructure to really withstand the impacts of these hurricanes," Miranda said.
Some FPL customers experienced weeks-long power outages after Hurricane Wilma in 2005. Since then, FPL has installed sturdier poles and switches that automatically reroute electricity when a line goes down.
President and CEO Eric Silagy said the goal of the new technology is to identify or even predict outages, then respond as quickly as possible.
"That’s what this center is really all about -- state-of-the-art technology, being able to take that next step to the next level, while at the same time keeping our employees safe during a major event," he said.
The new facility in West Palm Beach consolidates operations that had previously been in Miami and Sarasota, at a cost of $42 million dollars. And it’s not just for hurricanes; it’ll be where FPL monitors power distribution from substations to customers, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
An FPL spokeswoman said the company has planned several other facilities upgrades: construction of six service centers and three modular buildings designed to withstand category 5 hurricanes; and retrofits to two already-existing service centers.
Editor's note: This story has been edited to clarify the types of centers that are planned. "Distribution control centers" like the one under construction in West Palm Beach are facilities for monitoring the flow of electricity from substations to customers. "Service centers" are facilities where crews stay during storms so they can be in place to quickly respond to outages. FPL is constructing one new distribution control center, six service centers and three modular buildings that will support existing service centers.