Duke Energy invests in smart grid technology, devices to stay storm ready

Duke Energy invests in smart grid technology, devices to stay storm ready
Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 5:17 PM EDT
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WILMINGTON, N.C. (WECT) - Being prepared before a storm hits can make all the difference in staying safe, so while your family prepares for a storm, so is a major utility company.

“We’re working hard to make improvements in the area,” said Duke Energy spokesperson Jeff Brooks. “That means strengthening the grid so we can help to avoid power outages whenever possible but when those outages occur, making sure we can restore power as fast as possible.”

Johnny Spencer, a lineman for Duke Energy, can remember Hurricane Florence like it was yesterday.

“That was definitely the worst,” said Spencer. “A lot of flooding, things we aren’t used to dealing with on a daily basis with a typical thunderstorm.”

Spencer is on year 22 of his career of being a lineman. In that time, a lot has changed. He’s gone from climbing poles to riding in a bucket to get to the lines. That’s not all that’s changed in the industry.

“We’ve recently finished building a new substation up in the Whiteville area -- Columbus County,” said Brooks. “We’ve upgraded more than 100 wood poles to steel poles in Brunswick County as well as improvements down near Bald Head Island and other areas. Here in New Hanover County, we’re making upgrades around River Road, up along Forest Hills, 9th and Orange streets -- those kinds of areas and downtown.”

It’s all in the name of staying weather prepared -- especially in the heart of hurricane season.

Duke Energy has a team of meteorologists keeping an eye out for potential storms. They help determine where outages could hit, giving higher-ups some advance warning to determine how to best use resources and prepare for the next storm.

One vehicle, dubbed the MarshMaster, was a game changer when it came to the company’s response to Florence. Drones are another way to help better reach some areas that may be dangerous or difficult to get to. Smart grid technology can help linemen achieve restoration faster, too.

“If something happens on the line, different points throughout the line, there are pieces of equipment that can detect things and they can open and close at will,” said Spencer. “It makes getting lights on a lot quicker.”

Spencer says investments in new technology help him get the power back on when you’re in the dark -- but that’s not all he appreciates about the upgraded grid investments.

“I like the equipment, first and foremost,” said Spencer, who doesn’t miss climbing poles. “They’ve invested a lot of money to keep us safe, get everybody’s lights on quicker and maintain a better quality.”

Of course, it’s impossible to be sure exactly how bad a storm will be for one area but it appears Duke Energy is doing what it can to make sure they are ready if we see a hurricane this year.