Electric Energy in Florida: Staying Storm Hardy

Electricity is inextricably linked to most aspects of our lives. Yet we often take for granted the power that comes to our homes and businesses. When it ceases, what happens? From the power plant to the transmission lines to the substation to our homes and businesses, GAI’s Power Delivery-Engineering Market Sector takes us through the process of keeping our power up and running effectively, particularly during hot, stormy months in places such as Florida.

Engineering Power Delivery

Electricity as we know it has a relatively short history as a commodity in our world. Until Thomas Edison introduced electric generation in 1884, most people were using organic energy for heat, light, and power. Logs and coal supplied heat and cooking fuel; wax candles and oil provided lighting; animals powered carts and wagons. Albeit rugged, the world was a simpler place.

For the most part, energy required people to gather, make, or improvise their own power supplies. Despite the simplicity, inclement weather with storms or high winds didn’t turn off the light, heat, or power like it can today.

Our Lives Depend on Energy Resources

Today, apart from new renewable energy sources, we mostly rely on energy from utility companies to power our homes and businesses. Generated from a power station, electricity moves at high voltages through a transmission network to electrical substations, where the power is transformed to a lower voltage. The final distribution of electricity to the consumer occurs through medium and low voltage lines.

Electric Distribution
Generating from the power plant, electricity moves through a transmission network to the consumer.

With our group of engineers, technicians, and drafters, GAI’s Power Delivery Market Sector designs high and low voltage electrical lines and substations to assist in the delivery of power. “For electric projects, GAI designs and permits transmission and distribution lines and substations,” says GAI Power Delivery Market Manager Steven Miller, PE, MBA. “We have three groups—transmission, substation, and distribution—that provide different work for the same clients. The transmission group designs high voltage transmission lines. The substation group designs new and modifications to existing substations where the power is transformed to a lower voltage. Then the distribution group designs the lines that provide power to the customer.”

Transmission line engineering
Transmission line engineering entails new construction, rebuilding existing lines, upgrading existing conductors, and designing reinforcement for towers.
Distribution engineering
Distribution engineering involves expanding and rebuilding existing lines, upgrading existing conductors, replacing critical structures, and adding new equipment for improved reliability against storms and high winds.
Substation engineering
Substation engineering involves upgrades to existing and designs of new substations, such as this new 230-23kV distribution substation.

Keeping Power in Florida Running Smoothly and Efficiently

In Florida—which is second only to Texas in net electricity generation—maintaining the power delivery network is critical to keeping everyone in the sunshine state cool and comfortable, as well as powering various devices people use. Involved in numerous electric power projects in Florida, GAI knows the importance of improving and getting the system back on line if and when it goes down. “We have performed designs for nearly 715 projects over the past two years,” says Distribution Group Manager John Jaskot, PE.“These projects involved approximately 3,400 poles and 450,000 feet of line.”

Much of GAI’s electric utility work in Florida involves automatic feeder switches. “These automated devices are used to isolate problems on the circuits to maintain power to as many customers as possible,” says Jaskot. “Minimizing the number of power outages and the length of time for each outage is critical.”

To date, GAI has completed 250 automatic feeder switch projects in Florida. In a recent storm drill during a hurricane, one Florida utility found that the automated devices helped keep the duration of the outage under three hours and prevented tens of thousands of customer interruptions.

Working on the Overall Electric Grid

By working on the major areas of an electric network, the GAI Power Delivery team is poised to provide necessary solutions, such as “hardening” or improving electric systems to withstand severe weather. “Part of our work in Florida involves hardening the systems to protect against summer storms and hurricanes,” says Transmission Line Group Manger Gretchen Horn, MBA, PMP. “This work involves upgrading wood poles to concrete and improving hardware.”

Concrete transmission pole

“As we approach storm season this summer, we are particularly aware of the wind and the forces that come with different classes of hurricanes in Florida,” says Jaskot. “Upgrading to concrete poles helps secure the lines and protect consumers from outages. The automatic feeder switches also help prevent disruptions.”

GAI is also involved in upgrading lines to meet North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) design clearances, the standards for transmission line to ground clearance. “A few years ago there was an initiative with the utilities across the country to verify that all transmission lines were meeting the clearance criteria,” says Horn. “Our work involved providing solutions for lines that weren’t meeting those clearance criteria.”

Designing for upgrades to and the replacement of older equipment such as transformers and circuit breakers in existing substations with more reliable equipment is also an important part of the services that GAI’s Power Delivery team provides for utilities in Florida. By upgrading the equipment, the overall reliability of the electrical grid is improved, which in turn results in the reduction in the number of outages.

Maintaining Florida’s Energy Mission

As Florida infrastructure continues to grow, maintaining the state’s electric power grid will remain a top priority. “Our work in Florida is essential to maintaining the state’s electric infrastructure,” says Substation and Protection & Control Group Manager Steven DuVal. “We look forward to helping the state continue its mission to protect residents from weather-related energy incidents.”

To learn more about GAI’s Power Delivery-Engineering services, contact Market Sector Manager Steven Miller, PE, MBA at 412.399.5161; Transmission Line Group Manager Gretchen Horn, MBA, PMP at 412.399.5405; Distribution Group Manager John Jaskot, PE at 412.399.5077; or Substation and Protection & Control Group Manager Steven DuVal at 561.345.6130.

Steven Miller, PE, MBA
Steven Miller, PE, MBA
Gretchen Horn, MBA, PMP
John Jaskot, PE
Steven DuVal

Going to the Florida Municipal Electric Association Conference July 18-20?  Please let us know if you are attending so we can connect.

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