1 year since Hurricane Irma: Duke Energy continues making upgrades

Tens of thousands were without power for a week
Posted at 6:40 AM, Sep 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-09-10 06:40:28-04

Tens of thousands of people went without electricity in the Tampa Bay Area after Hurricane Irma, some for as long as seven or eight days.

Duke Energy dealt with most of those outages in our area, and since then they've been working hard to make a lot of improvements, investing about $6 billion on upgrades to their system.

One change Duke Energy is making is expanding their "smart grid." Sometimes called a "self-healing" grid, this modernized electric grid can automatically re-route electricity from an unaffected area to one dealing with an outage in just seconds. Right now only about 30 percent of Duke Energy customers are connected to a "smart grid" but the company is aiming to increase that number to about 80 percent by the end of the next decade.

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You may remember Duke Energy's system of telling customers how long their power would be out failed. A spokesperson for the company tells ABC Action News that not only is that communication system fixed and improved, but they created a backup communication system that can automatically call customers to give them updates on the outage affecting them.

Lastly, another change Duke Energy is making is putting more power lines underground in a process they call "targeted" underground. It means that most neighborhoods will not have changes made to their power lines, but some spots that are especially prone to downed trees and are in an especially vulnerable spot in Duke Energy's power grid may have changes made. For example, "targeted" underground is happening right now in Seminole in Pinellas County, says Duke Energy.

Downed trees caused about 2100 utility poles managed by Duke Energy to be damaged during Hurricane Irma. Duke has the trees along their power lines trimmed, but they need the help of homeowners to manage the trees on their private property.

To find out if the trees on your property or your neighbor's property could be putting your entire community's electricity in jeopardy, The Right Tree Right Place program is filled with helpful information.

Duke Energy has a page dedicated to the tree management HERE.