Utilities prepare for months for hurricane season

For Duke Energy, this includes preparing intermediate sites, installing stronger supports, and expanding technology to limit downtime.

PETERSBURG, Florida — On a 65-acre site in The Villages, you can find trailers that can sleep over 2,500 workers, over 100 mobile generators, and thousands of ready-to-install poles.

“Duke Energy is always preparing for the next storm. So that’s just one of the ways we do it all year round,” says Audrey Stasko, spokesperson for Duke Energy.

It’s a year-round staging area they typically create so crews can respond to areas hit hard by the storm, which is an important part of what companies like Duke Energy do during hurricane season.

“Hurricane or emergency preparedness is especially important for the utility industry because we provide a service that people depend on,” Stasko added.

The Villages site is one of 60 sites across the state where they have to mobilize huge teams, and another they use is Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, where they had a big presence last fall before Hurricane Ian.

“The ability to have these footholds in strategic locations and the ability to move in case we need to act quickly is, I think, the most important thing,” Stasko explained.

While these are more than just staging areas, a lot of work goes into preparing for the hurricane season, including actual infrastructure changes.

Over the past couple of years, Duke Energy has upgraded more than 12,000 transmission towers across the state, including a site on Dartmouth Avenue in St. Petersburg that now has taller, stronger concrete towers.

The data showed that the old piers may have been vulnerable to flying debris.

Duke is also placing more lines underground, pruning trees near existing lines, and even installing new “self-healing” technologies that allow them to automatically detect outages and reroute power to restore power more quickly.

“Self-healing technology helps us restore power automatically, without having to roll the aerial platform, and sometimes even avoid shutting down,” Stasko explained. About 60 percent of their customers are connected to self-healing technologies, and they hope that number will grow to 80 percent in the next couple of years.

As utilities continue to prepare for this hurricane season, they are reminding residents to prepare as well.

“This is especially important for people who depend on equipment powered by electricity,” Stasko added.

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