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Gulf Power spends $83m on smart grid for Pensacola

Steve Rogerson
February 13, 2018

Florida utility Gulf Power is investing $83m on smart grid technology for downtown Pensacola to upgrade the reliability and performance of its energy supply.
Beginning this year, Gulf Power and the city of Pensacola will partner to modernise the downtown’s existing underground power-grid network. The five-year, $83m investment will modernise the current 70-year old network delivering energy to downtown Pensacola, and improving reliability and redundancy, as well as allowing Gulf Power to increase capacity as the area grows.
“These projects are part of Gulf Power’s five-year programme to replace and upgrade systems to better serve our customers in the downtown area,” said Rick DelaHaya, Gulf Power spokesperson. “Although the power network has been meticulously maintained over the years, it is 70 years old, and the time has come to replace outdated equipment and update the system. These upgrades will improve reliability through updated smart grid monitoring devices that can speed up power restoration.”
This is the second project in the downtown in recent months to upgrade systems to increase reliability and redundancies. Late last summer, crews replaced and consolidated numerous utility poles, while many overhead line crossings and transformers were also removed, improving aesthetics of the area.
Along with these updates and the planned future upgrades, this is another example of how the energy company is investing in the energy grid that serves its customers. Gulf Power crews have worked throughout north-west Florida to improve the way energy is delivered, an initiative aimed at insuring the long-term reliability of the energy infrastructure.
“The key to keeping reliability high for customers is investing in technology, maintenance and upgrades,” said DelaHaya. “Making sure our customers can count on us for reliable energy is very important, and the investments we continue to make in our system are paying off.”
At a cost of more than $225m, Gulf Power has invested in infrastructure upgrades across the region. With recent and on-going hardening, substation upgrades and upgrading infrastructure using the latest technologies to reduce power outages, Gulf Power customers are enjoying fewer outages than in any time in recent history. In fact, investments in the energy grid have improved reliability for the utility’s 460,000 customers by almost 20 per cent since 2010.
“The goal is to make the electric grid system more resilient, more fault-tolerant and durations of outages shorter, while providing a system of redundancies,” said DelaHaya.
Specifically, some of the upgrades across the service footprint have included the installation of smart technology such as smart, self-healing equipment, and replacing most of the wooden transmission structures with concrete poles and wooden cross arms with steel arms.
“The existing systems downtown have served the area well for many years,” said DelaHaya. “We are upgrading the system and ushering in a new era of reliability and redundancies to continue to provide safe, reliable service to area homes and businesses. This is just a part of the many investments Gulf Power is making to ensure we continue to maintain high reliability. From investing in technologies and upgrades, to adding renewables to our portfolio, we are making sure customers can count on us for their energy needs today and well into the future.”