Eric Schwartz – Using Tomorrow’s Technology Today
Changing the Current means making a difference for the customer. In all aspects of life – both personally and professionally – there’s always a chance to do better, always a chance to improve. If you’re not changing, then you’re simply not improving.
Innovation is in my blood. My grandfather and great-grandfather were both engineers and inventors. I spent a lot of time with my grandfather when I was young. One day when I was eight, he and I were out playing golf together. After losing a few balls in the water, I came up with the idea of putting a camera on the end of the golf ball retriever to see underwater from the shore. That way you don’t have to jump in and get wet searching for the ball you just sliced in the water hazard. I never did anything with this invention until after my grandfather passed and I found the original drawing he had kept for so many years. I had actually forgotten about it. At that point, I was inspired and made an effort to learn about patents through Google searches and worked with a law firm to patent my invention.
I’m now the lead project manager for smart grid and innovation here at FPL. My role here is to look five, 10, and 15 years out to identify emerging technology we can leverage to improve reliability of our services for our customers.
One area that really excites me is the use of drones. The idea that we can use such a device to not only examine the health of the energy grid but to also reach and see areas we otherwise couldn’t is fascinating. I say that because I know where the energy industry was and where we are now here at FPL. For example, following a hurricane there’s going to be damage. We know that. And, the quicker our crews on the ground know the damage they’re up against, the better prepared they can be and the quicker they can restore power. You see, back in the day we would use a large, clunky helicopter to fly over damaged areas – they can only get so close to damage.
To get that close up view, crews would have to wait for tree crews to come in and clear the way so they could get out and accurately assess the damage then get the proper equipment and supplies to fix the issue. Thanks to drones and their compact size, however, we can now bypass all of that and get up close and personal with the equipment after a storm. This translates to faster restoration times. Drones were invaluable the last two hurricane seasons. During Irma, I actually managed the drone fleet and identified those hard-hit areas where our pilots needed to be.
I’m not only an employee of FPL, I’m a customer, too. My family is here; my kids go to school right down the road. Having reliable energy is a necessity. It powers our refrigerator that keeps our food fresh and the A/C that keeps us cool. We need electricity – everyone does – and that’s what drives me to be better. My responsibility is to help our customers, to work day and night to find new and innovative ways to deliver reliable energy they can count on in good weather and bad, and to get power restored faster when outages do occur.