DELRAY BEACH, Fla. -- Following Hurricane Irma, many FPL customers had no power for days, even for a week and beyond.
Florida Power and Light says the restoration was actually quicker than it was in the aftermath of Hurricane Wilma in 2005. The reason: FPL said its smart grid technology and efforts they've made to strengthen their system.
FPL is focusing on Delray Beach, replacing wooden power poles on main power lines with concrete ones, which are able to withstand higher winds. Their hope is to position their system in the best possible way for hurricane season.
"This has been going on since 2006, so we are hardening all of our main power lines," said FPL spokesperson Bill Orlove. "That is our goal into 2024."
Much of that work focused so far on lines leading to critical facilities like hospitals, police and fire stations. All of which are crucial in the aftermath of a storm.
Now crews will tackle some 40 poles on 441 in western Delray Beach. The line services 3,800 FPL customers, farms, and a solid waste authority facility. Then in May, the focus will shift into other areas of Delray Beach.
"After Hurricane Wilma, we lost over 12,000 power poles. In Hurricane Irma, it was a fraction of that," said Orlove. "We are seeing poles that are being put up behind me, are going to be able to withstand the hurricane-force winds and that means we are going to be able to get the lights back on quicker for our customers."
Those who went through Hurricane Irma in the County Club Acres community of Delray Beach said they sure hope so.
"It was awful we didn’t have power for about nine days. We were one of the last neighborhoods to regain power," said Jillian Jenkins, an FPL customer.
FPL said the main line that services that neighborhood has not been hardened yet but is on the list. It is unclear when that project will take place.
"Concrete poles definitely. This neighborhood was built in the 50s and we are so out of date," said Jenkins.
FPL said the hardening and strengthening also focuses on shortening the span between power poles and inspecting 1.2 million poles statewide every eight years. They are also turning attention to their much-touted smart grid technology, which they said helped restoration efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Irma.
"Certainly we know that there will be outages after a storm, but what's critical is to get everyone's power on as safely and as quickly as possible," said Orlove. "The investments we are making to the system, as I said, have shaved days off the restoration efforts."
Hurricane Irma was a wind event, so many customers have asked about underground power lines. FPL said they are running a pilot program to look at various communities and what the benefits of that would be. They don't know where those areas will be yet.