Getting electrical power restored faster after hurricanes such as Irma and Matthew is the goal of the new Florida Power & Light service center that opened Wednesday in Jupiter.
“We want our technicians out of the gate quicker. They will be focused on getting the power up and running,” said Bryan Olnick, FPL Vice President of Distribution Operations.
Built to withstand a Category 5 storm, the 25,000-square-foot, two-story building is part of FPL’s overall plan to improve service center buildings and response times for repairs.
The $6 million Jupiter service center, on the southwest corner of Delaware Boulevard and Indiantown Road, is the first of its kind to open in Palm Beach County. Eleven more similar service centers are being built in the FPL 35-county service area. One is near Old Boynton Beach Road west of Interstate 95 in Boynton Beach.
More than 100 FPL “storm riders” can stay at the new service center in Jupiter. They will sleep on cots that are now in storage in the building. Office workers will occupy the building the rest of the time.
Also on display Wednesday was one of the four FPL portable emergency operation center vehicles technicians use to locate and monitor power outages. Packed with electronics and view screens, the converted mobile home monitors FPL electric and communication systems during storms. It also receives data from drones launched into inaccessible areas.
Monitors on a wall show a road map of the FPL service area. Outlines of tiny red vehicles stop and start on the streets on the screen. They look like an Uber vehicle moving on a cell phone.
“Those are FPL repair vehicles. We can tell where they are,” said Sake Irfan, who is with FPL’s distribution engineering lead.
The former FPL service center at the Indiantown Road location was demolished. The new two-story FPL building is four times as large.
Juno Beach-based FPL has invested more than $3 billion since 2006 to build what it calls a stronger, smarter and more storm-resilient energy grid.
About 680,000 Palm Beach County customers lost power during Hurrice Irma. About 100,000 county customers lost power during Hurricane Matthew, which skirted Palm Beach County’s coast, then traveled up the state’s east coast.