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Eliminating Overhead Electrical Lines: FPL's Storm Secure Underground Program Underway

Tania Ortega-Cowan

Here along the Treasure Coast, we’re quite familiar with power loss due to storms and hurricanes. It’s just a given that if the winds pick up and blow vegetation onto the lines, or lightning strikes, that we could very well lose power.

FPL – that stands for Florida Power & Light – is on a mission to change that. They’re currently in the middle of a 3-year pilot program to eliminate poles and overhead wires and replace them with underground cables.

We dropped in to see their latest installment in Jensen Beach on the NE corners of Indian Drive and Indian Court.

MB: Vegetation is the leading cause of interruptions. And so, when you underground the lines, obviously the vegetation is not an issue. It’s also not an issue with wind and lightning.

That’s Marie Bertot of FPL.

MB: What we’re looking at right now is the construction phase of FPL’s Storm Secure Underground Program.

We’re standing in front of large construction equipment. The crew is preparing to dig and run a cable under the ground.

Credit Tania Ortega-Cowan

MB: That’s a directional boring machine. What is significant about that is that this is a very high-tech way of digging a ditch let’s say. Remember when you would normally have to put down a line you would have to dig a big trench all the way. Now what we do is on one property you have a couple feet with a hole. And then three or four properties down we have another hole and literally it digs underground. And it goes all the way over across 3 or 4 or 5 properties and then comes out the other end so we’re not having to make as big an impact on all the yards.

We wonder about potential damage to the underground cables.

EF: All of our underground equipment that we purchase is

…specifically treated and designed…

EF: so we don’t have to worry about corrosion.

That’s Enrique Formoso.

He says this work in this location affects 87 customers and will take about 3 months to complete. On the Treasure Coast, they have already completed 7 neighborhood projects. They have 10 more in the works and have 23 slated for the near future. Once the 3-year pilot program is complete, they will evaluate. FPL currently serves 35 counties in Florida, so converting every customer to the underground system will take some serious time. Formoso says it’s easily a 20 – 25-year project to convert the 22,000 miles of overhead line in use.

Next, we see the new pad mounted transformers which sit right on the ground along the easement. Eventually every 5 to 8 properties will have one on the easement.

Here’s Michael Fetto.

MF: So, we ask for a three-foot clearance in the back and then an 8-foot clearance on the front we can access.

While there we see a neighbor leaving. She stops to talk.

SH: I’m a realtor and I think it’s an asset in the property values. When people are looking to buy in Florida now, they’re concerned about the wind. They’re concerned about the storms. And having the lines in the ground and having the reliance in power is going to be a value increase.

Tom Winter is with FPL’s visual team taking photos and video that you can find on FPL’s website.

TOC: I see you have eyes in the sky

TW: Eyes in the sky with my drone. Since we’re talking about overhead wires, its’ an interesting perspective and I support the company with stills and other ground video so they can communicate the project to residents and other folks that might be interested

He sends up a drone to take video.

Learn more at https://www.fpl.com/reliability/storm-secure-underground-program.html