Just in time for National Energy Awareness Month, we’re excited to announce that the “Ask the Experts” blog is now “Watt’s Happening?” While our name has changed, we will still be providing you with the tips and data you need to know to understand energy and keep your bill low all year long. I’m Eric Schwartz, a member of the Watt’s Team, and I’ve been with FPL for nearly a decade. As the person responsible for forecasting, piloting and implementing cutting-edge technology at the company, I will share lots of tech-based tips and information. Today, I’ll explain why we call the energy grid “smart.”
Originally built back in the 1890s, the U.S. electric grid is a network of transmission lines, substations, transformers and more that bring energy from the power plant to you at home. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the grid today consists of more than 9,200 electric generating units and over 600,000 miles of transmission lines spanning the country. Through the years, FPL has worked continuously to improve the grid in our service areas in order to bring you the most reliable power and keep your bills low. Investing in smart grid technology is one major way we’ve done this.
Like phones, doorbells, speakers and even everyday appliances such as refrigerators, what makes the grid “smart” is the wireless connectivity technology built into it. Since 2006, FPL has installed more than 5 million smart meters and over 120,000 intelligent devices along the energy grid that use advanced technology to help detect problems and restore service quickly if outages occur.
We also continuously implement emerging technology, including drones, robots and augmented reality, to help locate potential power issues and proactively correct outages in a timely manner. Drones, a safe and cost-effective alternative to helicopters, are perfect for getting to hard-to-reach places — thanks to their small size — and allow us to quickly provide damage assessments to our crews. The self-driving substation robot we developed with engineers can handle site inspections on its own, ensuring substations work effectively in good weather and bad. Augmented reality hard hats are an exploratory technology that will help our crews see more information than what is physically visible, a resource with nearly limitless applications in terms of its problem-solving capabilities.
The implementation of smart meters is another important feature that adds to the grid’s intelligence. These digital devices measure your energy usage through a secure, wireless network. This new tool gives you more information, control and convenience. They also contribute to the overall strength of the grid and its improved reliability. A key advantage to smart meters versus older mechanical meters is that, through FPL resources like the Energy Manager, they allow you to see your energy usage at any time. No more waiting for your monthly bill. Not only does the Energy Analyzer provide a breakdown of your usage, but it also provides customized tips for how your household can make simple changes to save energy and money. Plus, with information being sent to FPL securely and automatically, we no longer need to access your property each month to read the meter.
This implementation of this technology has one major goal: to make the grid smarter and stronger. These updates allow us to provide reliable power, with greater than 99.98% electric service reliability. They also help us detect problems so we can prevent outages. When power does go out, the smart grid allows us to reduce the length of the outage with faster repairs and more accurate restoration estimates. Lastly, and arguably most importantly, the reduced operating costs coupled with increased efficiencies mean a lower bill for you.
I hope you found this information useful. Be on the lookout for more “Watt’s Happening?” articles from me focused on the technology behind the light switch, and how tech can help you save money each month on your energy bill.