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Duke Energy’s Polk Reliability Project is a Roadmap for the Future

November 14, 2022 News

Duke Energy Florida is adding 48 miles of new transmission lines in Polk County to provide energy reliability and redundancy on the electric grid and help the county’s economic development councils attract new business to the area. 

The Polk County Reliability Project involves two line segments, said Ana Gibbs, spokeswoman for Duke Energy Florida:  

  • From the Osprey Energy Center at 1651 Derby Ave. W. in Auburndale to the Haines City East Substation at 2450 Cypress Parkway. 
  • From the Kathleen Substation at 12347 U.S. 98 N. in Lakeland to the Osprey Energy Center. 

“The Polk County Reliability Project will help strengthen reliability and enable Duke Energy and other utilities to deliver additional energy generated at the Osprey Energy Center to the major growth areas in Central Florida and surrounding areas,” Gibbs said. “It will help avoid system overloads on the existing Duke Energy transmission system by supplying an alternate path of energy flow to the surrounding areas.” 

And there’s more: “The new transmission infrastructure will also provide the opportunity for future economic development and growth in the region,” she said. 

Polk County grew from 602,000 people in the 2010 Census to 725,000 in the 2020 Census, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. The estimated population for the county in 2021 was 753,500 people, an additional 28,500 people in one year. 

There were 12,500 business establishments in 2020, according to the Census Bureau.   

“From an economic development standpoint, businesses often are large users of power,” said Lindsay Zimmerman, senior vice president and chief operating officer of the Central Florida Development Council. “The Polk Reliability Project aids the council’s initiative of providing power immediately, supporting economic development here.” 

Businesses considering relocating to Florida often want to open about one-third faster than in previous years, she said. That means infrastructure needs to be in place. 

Duke is a Fortune 150 company headquartered in Charlotte, N.C. Its electric utilities serve 8.2 million customers in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. 

The Reliability Project 

Duke announced the Reliability Project in 2018, and construction has started, Gibbs said. The timeline looks like this:  

  • Osprey to Haines City East: Vegetation removal and line construction started in spring 2022. The line and substation should be completed in late 2023. Restoration of the property will continue through 2024. 
  • Osprey to Kathleen: Line construction will begin in spring 2023 and is expected to be completed in summer 2024. Property restoration will continue throughout that year. 

Substations are an important part of providing electricity, Gibbs said. They “play a key role in the complex process of bringing electricity generated at faraway power plants to customers’ homes, businesses, schools and other buildings. Substations alter electrical voltage, making it usable for customers, and also perform several other important functions.” 

Redundancy is critical, and Gibbs explained why. “Redundancy basically means Duke Energy will have better backup capabilities. For example, during an outage, these additional lines will provide more ways to route power to our customers. This helps us isolate outages and reduce the number of outages or reduce the length of an outage a customer may experience. This is a critical capability for power companies so they can better serve customers. Reducing and eliminating outages can make a big difference for the business community and increase conveniences for residents” 

Who Benefits from Energy Reliability?

Those benefiting from the Reliability Project go beyond Duke’s customers, Gibbs said. “This is not only important for Duke Energy customers but also for customers of other utilities in the area who use the transmission system. It helps meet current and long-term energy demand in the region and it’ll strengthen system reliability to serve growing communities.” 

That’s especially important in the fast-growing northeast part of Polk County, 

“From single-family residents to businesses, it’ll help minimize the risk of power outages and support the growing demand in the community. As with the Kathleen (part of the project), this new line will help strengthen reliability and enable Duke Energy and other utilities to deliver additional energy generated at the Osprey Energy Center to the major growth areas in Central Florida, and it creates an alternate path for energy.” 

The Future 

Adding additional megawatts to the electrical grid in Florida supports residential and business growth. Businesses – especially advanced manufacturing plants and the like – often are large users of energy. 

“Every year Duke Energy Florida must submit a Ten Year Site Plan to the Florida Public Service Commission, which provides an extensive analysis of our energy grid,” Gibbs said. “It projects population and economic activity within the U.S. and Duke Energy Florida’s service territory to forecast for energy and demand growth, and also takes into consideration long-term weather trends. We use historical data, real-time analysis and predictive modeling, as well as years of operational experience, to ensure the grid can reliably meet customer energy needs in the most challenging conditions.  We are also part of a nationwide interconnected power network that enables power to be exchanged between utilities.” 

A winter storm in Texas in February 2021 knocked out that state’s electrical grid, causing widespread power outages and 246 deaths, half of whom froze to death, according to multiple news reports. The result: The CEO of the state’s Electric Reliability Council of Texas was fired, and six members of its board resigned. In addition, all three members of the state’s Public Utility Commission resigned. 

Duke’s preparing now to avoid such a catastrophe.  

“Duke Energy is committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable energy to customers,” Gibbs said. “Maintaining a robust system for supplying and delivering electricity is critical to ensuring the continued reliability and economic prosperity.”  

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