FPL's historic deal with S&C Electric promises more reliable power, huge cost-savings and jobs

Thu, 2014-10-30 12:00 -- Jesse Berst

Every so often an announcement comes along that signals a tipping point, a point in time where several trends converge to cause a market inflection. Such is the case with the news that -- over the next five years or so -- Florida Power & Light intends to put S&C Electric TripSaver reclosers on all of its 80,000 laterals. Here are some of the trends you can infer from this story:

  • Intelligence needs to move to the edges. We've discussed this for years, but now we have a bellwether utility that is doing it at scale. Some problems can't be solved by a centralized distribution management system or a centralized meter data management system. To get at some problems, you need automation at the edges of your network.
  • Customers are more and more interested in reliability and resiliency especially those in areas impacted by natural disasters and climate change. But even in other areas, customers are less and less tolerant even of momentary outages, much less lengthy interruptions in service.
  • The information gained from smart meters can help pinpoint where your next investment should be. Knowing what's going on at the endpoints often illuminates problems that we suspected all along but couldn't prove.
  • There's a business case for "self-healing" technologies and other "edge" techniques. Combine the benefits to customers (from reduced outages) and the reductions in O&M costs and distributed intelligence will often pencil out. For instance, the deployment described below is estimated to provide as much as $500,000 annually in outage cost-savings for electricity users on each main feeder.

Florida experiences more thunderstorms and lightning strikes than any other state in the U.S., and these storms often cause faults on the electric grid. A majority of these faults are temporary in nature, but can still cause protective equipment to operate, resulting in outages for customers. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that these temporary, or momentary, outages cost electricity users across the nation billions of dollars each year.

Council Lead Partner S&C Electric Company this week announced an agreement with Florida Power & Light (FPL) for S&C’s TripSaver® II Cutout-Mounted Reclosers to be installed throughout the utility’s system to reduce momentary outages for its 4.7 million customers. As part of its commitment to Florida, S&C will make a $3 million investment to expand its operations in the state by creating a new manufacturing facility for the TripSaver II. This new manufacturing facility and the deployment of the TripSaver II is estimated to bring 170 new jobs to the state of Florida.

Historic first step
“FPL has made a historic first step in the utility industry by taking action to reduce momentary interruptions for its customers,” says Mike Edmonds, Vice President – U.S. Business, S&C Electric Company. “Based on government research, we estimate that the use of TripSaver II will provide as much as $500,000 annually in cost savings for electricity users on each main feeder as well as provide significant reductions in operating expenses that will benefit FPL and its customers.”

The TripSaver II is an electronically controlled single-phase recloser that can self-clear transient faults on lateral lines, avoiding the need to “blink” or disturb the main feeder and other lateral lines. When fault current is detected, the TripSaver II opens, waits and then closes again to test if the fault current is still present. If the fault is temporary, the TripSaver II restores power in seconds, preventing an extended outage for customers without creating any momentary disruptions to electricity users on other lines. If the fault is permanent, such as a tree falling on the power lines, then the TripSaver II coordinates with other protective devices to isolate the fault, limiting the number of customers affected by an outage.

Saving FPL time and money
“Starting in 2015, we will install S&C’s devices across FPL’s thousands of neighborhood power lines to reduce the duration and frequency of outages lasting less than one minute,” says Eric Silagy, President and Chief Executive Officer, FPL. “This tool will provide us with more details about outages, enable grid self-healing measures and speed restoration. Every time we use technology instead of sending a truck to investigate an outage, it saves us time and money while also improving our 99.98 percent reliability rate even more. Our customers, particularly our business customers, benefit by being more productive and competitive.”

The new manufacturing facility, to be located in Palm Beach County, will be in addition to S&C’s existing engineering operation offices in Orlando. The first TripSaver IIs will be deployed on FPL’s system in January 2015, with additional units being deployed steadily over the next five years.

The smart grid, smart city connection
S&C is adding intelligence to the electric grid so smart cities can improve their power reliability, resiliency and efficiency. To learn more, visit S&C's Smart Cities portal where you will find case studies, videos and more resources on how the company is helping cities around the world become more resilient with self-healing grids, energy storage and microgrids.

Read more about S&C…
Video: From Old Grid to Smart Grid: The Economic Impact on Electricity Customers
Case study: 
Brutally cold winter can’t stop Wisconsin’s first utility-scale solar project
Improving resiliency: ComEd, tech dream team partner to build a microgrid brain

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Jesse Berst is the founding Chairman of the Smart Cities Council. Click to learn about the benefits you receive when you join the Council for free. Follow @Jesse_Berst and connect on LinkedIn.