Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Manufacturing plant hopes to keep the lights on in Florida

Steve Rogerson
June 16, 2015
Chicago-based S&C Electric has opened a manufacturing facilityin West Palm Beach, Florida, to turn out thousands of smart grid devices aimed at improving service for Florida Power & Light's (FPL) 4.8 million customers.
"We're committed to continuing to build a stronger, smarter grid to provide electricity our customers can count on in good weather and bad," said Eric Silagy, president and CEO of FPL. "Part of the commitment of having the most modern grid in America includes building relationships with innovative companies like S&C, with the goal of delivering state-of-the-art technology for the benefit of our customers, all the while keeping the cost they pay for their electricity the lowest in Florida and 30 per cent below the national average."
FPL's high demand for automated devices that help decrease the number of customers affected by momentary outages, or flickers, is the primary driver for S&C's decision to site the factory in south Florida. It will produce S&C's patented TripSaver II cut-out-mounted re-closer, an automated switch FPL is purchasing by the thousands and placing on neighbourhood power lines.
"The TripSaver II is an automated device, replacing traditional fuses that must be manually operated," said Michael Edmonds, president of US business for S&C. "When there's a temporary issue on a power line, such as a palm frond falling or blowing into the line, this switch automatically responds in seconds, senses when the branch is gone and clears the temporary issue – keeping the power on for customers."
Automated switches work similar to a breaker in a home, but with the added benefit of being able to re-energise automatically, improving the self-healing capabilities of the electric system – technology that makes the system more resilient following severe weather.
"Today marks the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season," said Silagy at the opening earlier this month. "These devices and the other smart grid technology that we are installing throughout our communities are dramatically changing our customers' experience for the better. Today, we're detecting and preventing many power outages well before they become problems for our customers – that is a complete shift in the way we conducted business just a short time ago. We believe when severe weather strikes, the billions of dollars we've invested during the past decade to build a stronger, smarter grid will result in much quicker power restoration, allowing for faster return to normalcy for our customers."
Deploying smart grid technology is part of FPL's effort to modernise the electric grid and deliver everyday reliable service, while also reducing costs for customers. FPL plans to install more than 20,000 automated switches this year alone.
Florida governor Rick Scott attended the opening of the S&C facility and addressed its new employees and invited guests.
"S&C's new manufacturing facility will create 170 new jobs and I am excited to welcome them to West Palm Beach,” he said. “Manufacturing sites like this are creating new opportunities for families to succeed across our state, and are helping us meet our goal of making Florida the global destination for jobs."
The factory represents a $3m investment in Florida and is expected to bring 170 new jobs to the state, including manufacturing operations and installing the devices along the FPL electric system.