BRADENTON BEACH -- Florida Power and Light officials announced power line upgrades Wednesday in Manatee and Sarasota counties to shorten outages and cut down the number of times power is lost.
FPL is installing concrete poles on Bradenton Beach that can withstand up to 130-mph winds and strong storms. More than 80 poles are being installed on Bradenton Beach alone, with 200 total to be installed on Bradenton Beach and up Cortez Road, serving about 3,000 residents and the Manatee County Water Treatment Plant.
The new poles will shorten outages and possibly cut down on the number of them, according to Dave McDermitt, FPL spokesman.
"It helps to prevent damage to the system. Storms can be devastating, and the concrete poles can better withstand forces of nature," he said. "So after a storm hits there will still be power outages, because we will have downed wires, etc., but the poles should still be standing in most cases so it's much easier and faster for us to install new power lines only as opposed to coming in and having to rebuild the system from scratch."
McDermitt said the old poles didn't often fall, especially since there haven't been strong storms here recently, but it has happened. The new poles, which weigh about 8,000 pounds and cost several thousand dollars, are more likely to withstand severe weather.
The stronger poles are part of 15 major projects FPL is working on in Manatee and Sarasota counties. The Bradenton Beach project costs "well over $1 million," according to McDermitt, and all 15 projects together will cost about $170 million.
"Since the last major storms rolled through Florida back in 2005, FPL has had a major program underway to make the electrical system stronger," McDermitt said. "In fact, we've invested $1.5 billion since 2006 on investments and improvements such as stronger poles, better equipment and cutting-edge technology."
Those projects include inspecting more than 18,000 utility poles, clearing almost 1,500 miles of power lines of trees and vegetation -- a major cause of power outages -- and inspecting 43 main power lines using infrared technology to address issues before they cause outages.
The Bradenton Beach installation should be done sometime in the fall, and updates for six major power lines in Manatee and nine major lines in Sarasota should be finished by the end of 2014.