What utilities can do now to prepare for a major storm event—4 key initiatives
December 14, 2017
December 14, 2017
In hurricane-prone Florida, preparing power delivery systems for resiliency in advance of storms can reduce restoration time and costs
As a Floridian, I can tell you we are all too familiar with the devastating effects that a hurricane, an extreme weather event, can have on a community. The memories of the devastation caused recently by Hurricane Irma as well as the six hurricanes in the span of two years (from 2014 to 2015) are still fresh in everyone’s mind. Downed trees, flooded streets, homes demolished, and power outages are just some of the hardships caused by extreme weather events.
Depending on the severity of the event, restoration efforts can take days, weeks, months, or—in the case of Hurricane Katrina—even years. For their part, utility companies are compelled by their customers to restore power as quickly and as safely as possible. Year-round, utilities seek to continually upgrade and harden their power systems to improve reliability and resiliency specifically against extreme weather conditions. Once a storm hits, utilities closely monitor outages and determine when conditions are safe for crews to begin restoration efforts.
As a manager in our Power group, I focus on transmission, distribution, and substation engineering in hurricane wind zones. I understand that strengthening our infrastructure is a key component for improving the reliability of a power system. Utility engineers design power systems to meet or exceed the standards set in the National Electric Safety Code (NESC), which is the standard for safely installing, operating, and maintaining electric systems in addition to regional, local, and OSHA requirements. In Florida, utilities specifically design their infrastructure to sustain hurricane-force winds. But what other key initiatives are we doing to make sure our utilities are resilient?
Here are four:
When customers lose power during a storm event, the restoration time for power to return is first and foremost on their minds. Before a storm makes landfall, utilities are preparing for restoration by transporting materials to forecast areas of need, mobilizing crews, and monitoring outages.
Storm restoration begins once it is safe for utility employees to navigate the streets and assess damage to the power system. Based on the prioritization of critical customers, non-construction employees will patrol the power lines and identify what facilities and equipment need repair or replacement. Repairs can range from a blown fuse in a disconnect switch to the repair of an entire circuit. However, having a robust storm-restoration plan in place and outlining what to do in advance of, during, and after an extreme weather event will significantly improve restoration time and cost.
By hardening the system, taking advantage of new technology, and employing a comprehensive vegetation management system, owners can significantly improve reliability and resiliency before, during, and after extreme weather events.