Florida Power & Light Company is always studying emerging technologies to find new, innovative ways to deliver reliable service to our 5.6 million customers. Our investments to build a stronger, smarter energy grid have increased reliability for our customers by nearly 40% since 2006. Our service reliability is among the highest in the nation at a 99.98%. Our customers benefited from the company’s best-ever reliability in 2020 thanks to some of the innovations below.
Automotive companies are exploring self-driving vehicles and FPL is, too – but with an energy twist. We’ve created a self-driving substation robot, which ensures our substations are working effectively and continue to deliver reliable service you can count on in good weather and bad. Each substation helps distribute power to thousands of customers, making them critical to the grid. With its four cameras, our robot inspects FPL substations all on its own. It’s equipped with advanced sensors and navigation systems to follow pre-set paths and navigate around equipment. It searches for unwanted guests, such as pesky animals, checks weather conditions and, most importantly, looks for issues in equipment. When it’s not performing regularly scheduled inspections, it docks in a doghouse-like shed and recharges its batteries. The robot can cover up to 10 miles of terrain on a single charge and is expected to reduce trips for our crews and improve reliability for you.
These small aircraft serve as our eye in the sky. FPL deploys a fleet of more than 20 drones to help us inspect the day-to-day health of the energy grid. In 2020, FPL used drones to proactively assess more than 14,000 miles of equipment. In addition, drones help speed restoration efforts following severe weather and hurricanes. They’re built with everything from thermal to multi-spectral imaging and give us a unique perspective of equipment high off the ground. Drones are also a safe, cost-effective alternative to helicopters, and their compact size makes them perfect for those hard-to-reach areas. This allows us to provide crews with timely and accurate damage assessments, which in turn helps us restore power faster after a major storm.
FPL has made significant investments since 2006 to build a stronger, smarter energy grid. As part of those investments, we’ve installed more than 5 million smart meters and more than 155,000 other intelligent devices across our service area to help monitor and manage the energy grid, detect and prevent power issues, and get life back to normal faster when outages do occur. These devices also help power FPL’s mobile application, Restoration Spatial View. This app, which was developed by FPL employees, puts important information about the grid in the palms of crews’ hands, helping them work more efficiently.
You may often feel overwhelmed by your own onslaught of big data – text messages, emails and pictures. For engineers working in a smart grid diagnostic center, information overload has a whole new meaning. They receive millions of pieces of information 24/7/365 – data points and real-time predictive analytics gathered from all our smart grid devices to help them monitor and manage the energy grid. Similar to tests doctors use to aid in diagnosing an illness, we collect and analyze equipment and electrical data to determine the health of its system. Our Smart Grid & Innovation team has studied the smart data generated by our myriad of intelligent devices to develop an award-winning program called Proactive Ticket Notification.
This program interprets smart grid data and alerts engineers back at the diagnostic center of issues customers aren’t aware of, allowing us to proactively fix the issue and avoid customer interruptions. Think of it as an EKG, which lets doctors find a heart problem before the patient knows there is one.
If you look closely, you’ll notice these intelligent devices perched up high on the power poles. FPL has installed more than 90,000 of these to help keep the power on and minimize the amount of people affected if an outage occurs. More than 6,200 Automatic Feeder Switches on our main power lines can reroute or stop the flow of electricity if a problem arises. These devices have helped avoid more than 8.5 million customer interruptions since 2011. We’ve also installed more than 85,000 Automatic Lateral Switches on our neighborhood power lines. These devices, which can remotely stop and start the flow of electricity, have helped reduce the average amount of time a customer experiences an outage more than 30% since 2014. The best thing about the smart technology in these switches is that it works remotely – allowing the switches to operate on their own to automatically reroute or start and stop the flow of electricity if they sense a disturbance on the power line. For example, common causes of power flickers – momentary power interruptions that last less than one minute – are tree branches or palm fronds that touch overhead power lines. These smart devices sense when that happens and automatically reroute or turn power off, isolating the problem so fewer people experience the outage. When the vegetation is cleared or the disturbance is gone, the switch automatically turns the power back on.
Just as cars have indicators that inform drivers when the car needs a tune-up or oil change, we use tools that let us know when and where work is needed on the energy grid. A fault current indicator (FCI) is a smart device that delivers real-time information about the energy grid to crews who use the data to identify the location and nature of a problem. With these devices, crews are remotely and quickly directed to a more precise location of a trouble spot – a function that used to be manual and time consuming. Getting to the right place faster means crews can work more efficiently. For the customer, it means more affordable and reliable energy service. You can think of a fault current indicator like a health and fitness tracker many people wear on their wrists today. The FCI essentially tracks the health of the system and delivers information crews use to intercept a problem before it becomes an outage.
Tropical systems are multifaceted forces of nature and produce high winds, tornadoes, intense rain, and flooding and storm surge. In 2012, Superstorm Sandy demonstrated this fact by bringing major storm surge to lower Manhattan, which is not normally prone to flooding, and caused widespread power outages. FPL analyzes tropical storms and hurricanes that impacted Florida and elsewhere to find rooms for improvement. As a lesson learned from Sandy, FPL’s commitment to building a stronger, smarter grid now includes real-time flood monitors at 232 substations that are most susceptible to storm surge. These flood monitors help mitigate damage to a substation due to storm surge, which in turn improves restoration times following major storms.
Again, we’re not just an energy company – we’re a technology company. Our continued investments in innovative technologies has helped FPL become the most reliable energy company in Florida and recognized as having the best comprehensive reliability performance in the U.S. – more than 50% better than the national average in 2019. But we’re never satisfied, and our Smart Grid & Innovation team will continue to look for new and innovative ways to deliver reliable service you can count on in good weather and bad.