The Atlantic’s hurricane season began June 1 and forecasters say this year will be the worst in 10 years. Anywhere between five to nine hurricanes, two to four major hurricanes, and 11 to 17 named storms are expected to strike now through November 30.
For utilities along the coast, this means working overtime to harden their networks and restore outages after blackouts. But just how ready are utilities for this above normal storm season? Very ready, it seems so far. In fact, what some of these utilities are doing is simply above and beyond.
The best preparation is year-round, says the folks at Duke Energy, the Charlotte, N.C.-based utility giant serving 7.5 million customers. The company’s meteorologists are constantly monitoring the weather, with its fleet preparing to do whatever it takes to maintain reliable, safe service.
Right now that involves trimming trees and inspecting and replacing wood poles, in addition to investing in grid automation and smart grid technologies. Also, with a 10-year, $13 billion investment announced this year, Duke will move some overhead services that are routinely affected, underground. Funds will also go to retrofitting about 400,000 transformers with new technology to prevent animal interference and lightning strikes. All of this combines to improve service reliability and reduce the length and number of outages.
Providing service to 1 million customers in the Baton Rouge area, Entergy Louisiana has gotten really good at restoring power safely and quickly after severe storms. That’s primarily due to its Operation Storm Ready plan that involves continuous preparation and training for all its staff. When there’s a weather threat, Entergy integrates weather forecasts with aggregated data to predict the estimated number and length of outages that might occur. Using these estimates, Entergy will call on restoration workers from around the country to get the power back on as safely and quickly as possible.
Hurricane Matthew did not spare Florida last year as it totaled $15 billion in damages. As a result, its 5 investor-owned electric utilities are improving storm response and restoration times everyday. In addition to new technologies, efforts are focusing on how customer communications and thoughtful preparation can improve outage restoration times. Other improvements include: facility inspections, maintenance and repairs, flooding and storm surge mitigation, wooden pole inspections, and coordination with other utilities, government, and community groups.
SSS greatly supports these utilities and their partners for keeping the grid and their customers ready.