Preventing a wash out: Monitoring flood waters to help keep your lights on
When you think of an approaching storm, which weather impacts come to mind? For most, it’s high winds, heavy rain or downed tree limbs. However, storm surge is one of the most dangerous impacts from tropical storms and hurricanes. Storm surge happens when water inundates an area that doesn’t normally get flooded.
Superstorm Sandy in 2012 and the recent devastation in Houston illustrate just how fast storm surge and flooding can occur, and in so doing, quickly disable substations – a key component of our electric system. Substations play a critical role in serving customers by reducing high-voltage electricity from transmission lines down to a level that can be distributed throughout FPL’s service area. There are more than 600 substations across our service area.
Since Sandy, FPL has installed real-time weather monitors at 223 substations most susceptible to storm surge, in Miami-Dade, Broward, Collier and Lee counties. While the monitors can’t prevent flooding, they provide us with real-time data and advanced warning if a flood threat emerges. We can make critical decisions swiftly, such as determining if we need to shut down power to the substation – which could help protect our equipment, minimize damage to our system and allow us to bring the substation back online faster after the storm passes.
For example, when Hurricane Matthew impacted Florida in 2016, we were able to proactively shut down a substation in the St. Augustine area that was forecast to have extensive flooding. By doing this, we estimate that we saved 24-48 hours in our restoration efforts and helped 6,500 customers get their lights back on faster.
We’ve also installed additional measures that help prevent water intrusion, including pumps and flood-resistant doors, as well as sealed windows and other openings in substation vaults to defend against flooding. These technologies are just a few examples of how we’ve invested nearly $3 billion since the historic 2004-05 storm season to make our system stronger, smarter and more resilient against severe weather.