Florida Power & Light sees results from pilot program to move power lines underground

Published on October 15, 2020 by Dave Kovaleski

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Florida Power & Light Co. (FPL) customers are seeing the benefits of the utility’s pilot program to move neighborhood overhead power lines underground.

FPL launched its Storm Secure Underground Pilot Program two years ago to improve service and move lines in certain neighborhoods underground. Trees and vegetation coming into contact with overhead power lines and equipment were the leading cause of outages when Hurricane Irma slammed Florida in 2017.

As of Oct. 1, FPL has completed more than 160 Storm Secure Underground Program projects for customers in neighborhoods throughout its service area. More than 53 miles of overhead lines have been placed underground, with more than 100 additional projects under construction.

“Putting the power lines underground has improved reliability and peace of mind in our community,” FPL customer Tammi Hellinger of Pinecrest in Miami-Dade County said. “Our neighborhood has a lot of trees, and we would often lose power during storms when branches would blow into overhead power lines. We were without power for a long time after Hurricane Irma. Placing the lines underground is much better.”

The company is committed to more undergrounding in the coming years. As part of its 10-year Storm Protection Plan, FPL estimates that between 300 and 700 neighborhood power lines will be placed underground annually from 2021 to 2023.

“This is definitely an improvement. I have not had a power outage since our lines were put underground in June, and we’ve had plenty of thunderstorms. What matters most is having reliable power,” customer Rob Bird of Ormond Beach in Volusia County said.

FPL has already learned several lessons from the pilot program that it will incorporate moving forward. Among them, they will look to determine customer preferences and find better ways to communicate with customers about upcoming projects in their neighborhoods. They will also look to minimize disruptions for customers by using technology such as ground-penetrating radar to detect and avoid other underground facilities, like telephone and cable lines and water mains.

“The Storm Secure Underground Program pilot is one of the many ways we demonstrate our commitment to continuously improving the safe and reliable power we provide to our customers,” FPL Senior Vice President of Power Delivery Manny Miranda said. “As we prepare to put more neighborhood power lines underground in the coming decade, we are learning valuable lessons from the pilot that will benefit all of our customers for years to come.”

Florida Power & Light serves more than 10 million people across Florida.