PALM BEACH COUNTY, Fla. — Florida Power and Light is making some big power grid improvements aimed at restoring power faster after a storm.
The focus is on replacing older wooden power poles with concrete ones, which FPL said can withstand higher winds. And many people who live in the area said now is the time.
A historic moment for Palm Beach County on Wednesday. The last two wooden transmission poles in the county are now gone, a sign the county is more prepared for the next storm.
"Wonderful, that’s wonderful," FPL customer John Winfree said.
Winfree has lived in a North Palm Beach neighborhood for 57 years and has seen his fair share of storms.
"We were out of power for 18 days at one point about 10 to 12 years ago," Winfree said.
FPL said this shouldn’t happen again by replacing the last two wooden poles with new concrete and underground ones.
"Hardened poles perform significantly better than wooden poles. They can withstand stronger winds, which helps improve reliability," FPL spokesman Conlan Kennedy said.
It’s an issue FPL has been trying to remedy since 2004. So now, during our next storm, Kennedy said you may get your power back even sooner.
"During Hurricane Ian, we didn’t lose a single transmission structure during the storm. And that was crucial for getting the lights and power back for our customers faster," Kennedy said.
And water won't be an issue for those underground wires for homeowners like Jeff Egizio, who said his neighborhood is prone to flooding.
"You’ve got the waterway here, as well as the waterway running on this side. So there’s water all over this area. So, of course, we always think about the ability for this to flood," Egizio said.
But FPL's wiring is not only 80 feet underground, it’s also storm-proof.
"The lines are protected with an extra layer, so flooding is not a concern for this," Kennedy said.
So as this last pole comes off, homeowners like John and Jeff hope this is a sign of promise, knowing it’s not if the next storm hits, but when.
"To have them go out and take care of those issues, makes us all feel a lot better," Egizio said.
These poles are different from the ones you might see in your neighborhood. FPL is hoping to eventually transition those poles you see on your street to either concrete or underground.
The last two poles FPL removed on Wednesday from Jonathan Dickinson park are transmission poles.
Transmission lines carry electricity from power plants to substations. Distribution lines carry electricity from substations to customers. Most transmission poles are being replaced with steel or concrete poles because of the complexity of undergrounding transmission poles.
FPL said the power lines that used to be supported by the remaining two wooden poles at Jonathan Dickinson Park have been buried 80 feet underground due to the location and proximity to the Loxahatchee River.
FPL would not be able to construct steel or concrete poles there. Although it said underground lines perform significantly better than overhead lines, no system is stormproof.
FPL said when they underground power lines, those are typically distribution lines, the ones you may see in your neighborhood. Those distribution lines are usually buried about 3 to 5 feet underground.
No energy grid is stormproof. If a hurricane impacts a service area, FPL said customers should prepare to be without power. However, hardening transmission poles helps FPL restore power back faster for its customers after a storm because less damage to those poles means less time to repair. This was seen after Hurricane Ian where FPL was able to work on distribution line repairs quicker, ultimately getting customers’ power back on faster.