Last Wednesday, at the Sebastian City Council meeting, Florida Power & Light (FPL) presented the new Storm Secure Underground Project in which they will move the overhead powerlines in some communities to underground.
It is a new pilot program that FPL will be undertaking to help enhance the reliability of our service and power restoration after a severe weather event like a hurricane.
“The intention of the program is to convert neighborhood powerlines from overhead to underground. Underground lines we know perform much better during major storm events like a hurricane compared to overhead lines, and that’s the goal of this program,” Michael Fetto, Manager of FPL’s Storm Secure Underground Program, said during the presentation.
FPL has more than 76 miles of power lines in Sebastian, with 40 percent already underground. Fetto said they are focused on the remaining 60 percent that is still overhead.
There are 143 neighborhood power lines with more than 6,300 customers that FPL will approach this year and next.
“We’re really focused on that remaining 60 percent. It’s a huge undertaking for us, but our goal with this program is to convert the lines of every neighborhood throughout our service area to underground,” Fetto explained.
FPL is only focused on the neighborhood powerlines, which are currently on wooden poles. The main power lines that are on concrete poles will remain overhead.
Fetto said it’s also part of FPL’s plan to strengthen their infrastructure to withstand hurricane-force winds better. FPL has recently installed more concrete poles along major roads such as CR-512 (Sebastian Blvd). He said the main lines have new equipment to withstand high winds during the storms.
“We don’t want to put those big concrete poles in neighborhoods. So rather than going behind your house and installing a big concrete pole that can stand hurricane-force winds, we’re going underground,” Fetto said.
Fetto also said that the vast majority of power outages during Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Matthew were caused by vegetation. Trees that grow around the powerlines have been the leading cause of bringing the lines down during a storm. It’s been something FPL has trouble maintaining.
For day-to-day operations, underground power lines offer better reliability in normal and severe weather conditions and reduce power interruptions due to vegetation issues. They also perform 80 percent better during significant storm events.
FPL is currently working with communities and neighborhoods in areas where data has shown the most power outages due to storms or vegetation issues.
While FPL isn’t going to service underground lines for the entire area of Sebastian, they’re focusing on areas containing 6,300 residents that have shown more outages than other neighborhoods.
Fetto said FPL would inform residents of what neighborhoods and streets will have the new underground lines. The power company is also calling and mailing information to Sebastian residents.
FPL will be looking for 5 out of 8 customers to place pad-mounted box transformers on easements of their properties.
Construction for the new underground powerlines will begin in January 2022, according to Fetto. FPL’s construction plan will be between 12 and 18 months.
“We expect to bury those 76.5 miles of powerlines mostly in 2022 and then the remainder in 2023,” Fetto told the Sebastian City Council.