Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

FPL deploys smart switch to reduce power outages

Steve Rogerson
March 6, 2019

Florida Power & Light (FPL) has become the first energy company in the world to use a piece of smart grid technology known as an automated transformer switch (ATS) to prevent and reduce power outages.
The announcement regarding the ATS, also known as a VacuFuse self-resetting interrupter, comes as FPL reaches a major smart grid technology milestone, completing the system-wide installation of 80,000 smart switches on the energy grid to reduce outages.
“The investments we’ve made throughout the last 13 years to build a stronger, smarter energy grid continue to provide tangible benefits to our customers in the form of higher day-to-day reliability and faster restoration following a major storm,” said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. “For example, the unprecedented size and scope of Hurricane Irma tested every piece of equipment across our 27,000-square-mile service area in 2017. Smart grid technology enabled us to avoid more than a half million outages during that storm and allowed us to restore service to customers even before it was safe for our trucks to roll.”
Since the historic 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons, FPL has invested nearly $3bn in building a stronger, smarter and more storm resilient energy grid. These investments have helped the company increase service reliability for its customers by more than 30 per cent in the past ten years. The addition of the ATS, which was jointly developed by FPL and S&C Electric, will help prevent and significantly reduce outages closer to users’ homes or businesses, equating to even better service reliability.
“Over the last few years, we have worked with FPL to identify ways to use our technology to better serve its customers,” said Mike Edmonds, chief commercial officer for S&C. “The new device brings advanced technology to areas of the grid that have never had it before and adds more tools to help FPL continue to improve its service reliability.”
S&C opened a facility in Palm Beach County in 2015 for its patented automated lateral switch (ALS) to meet FPL's high demand. That smart device helps decrease the number of customers affected by momentary outages, or flickers, and keeps temporary issues on the grid from becoming long-term outages.
“The smart grid technology we’ve deployed pays dividends for our customers every day,” said Manny Miranda, senior vice president of power delivery for FPL. “The automated smart switches alone have allowed the company to avoid more than 1.3 million interruptions just in 2018. I look forward to continuing to use technology such as the ATS to deliver service that our customers can count on in good weather and bad.”
When fuses protecting overhead distribution transformers operate, 70% of the time they’re for nuisance outages where no other repair work is needed, requiring utilities to send a lorry unnecessarily. That equates to 70% of these maintenance costs wasted for issues that could have been altogether avoided.
VacuFuse Self-Resetting Interrupters bring fault-testing technology further towards the end of the grid than had previously been possible, providing end-to-end lateral protection for the most vulnerable and difficult-to-reach locations on the system, saving needless maintenance expenses.