Nobody thinks about electricity until the power goes out. Whether long outages or short blips, modern life requires near perfect power delivery. In that regard, Pinecrest has its challenges. Mayor Corradino explains, “The Pinecrest community gets frustrated with any electricity problems, and rightfully so. But upon self-examination, we have put ourselves in an adversarial position with Florida, Power & Light because we have one of the densest tree canopies in South Florida and that is a natural enemy of the above-ground power grid.”
The combination of high tree density and low population density makes change a hard thing to justify economically. Further, FPL restores power after major events on a ‘high density first’ basis. This only makes sense, but it is disappointing nonetheless for Pinecrest residents.
We certainly know that hurricanes can wreak havoc, but even a light breeze has been known to knock out power. Research has proven that raising the power transmission lines above the canopy significantly hardens the grid, but that means taller, uglier concrete poles. And, many residents vehemently oppose them for beauty’s sake.
“We used to have lots of lawsuits and nasty interactions with FPL,” explains Corradino. “Today, our stance remains very tough, but are also trying to building a real relationship with them and it has actually worked. We are meeting on a regular basis, our hardening is working and undergrounding is happening. We are actually on their State pilot program, making us the beneficiaries of this aggressive hardening program.”
After the string of hurricanes in 2004 and 2005, Pinecrest residents blasted the idea of concrete poles and undergrounding. They rallied for beauty and, perhaps, didn’t understand the trade-offs. They simply blamed FPL for delivering an inferior level of service.
With 15 years of hindsight, things are changing. In early 2018, the Village held a series of workshops with residents called ‘Inspire Community Conversations’. In them, it was fortified that this was a premiere issue for Pinecrest. Today, many residents are tolerant of work being done and technology has made it easier to harden. In particular, undergrounding used to require trenches being dug for the entire length of a run. Now, a process called ‘jack and bore’, drills at each end of a run and horizontally bores a hole without disturbing anything at the surface. These changes are, in part, fueling progress.
Four years ago, there were zero miles of underground power cables in Pinecrest. With substantial efforts by Pinecrest’s administration, FPL committed to undergrounding 20% of the Village’s approximately 100 miles of electric lines. At $1-million per miles, this is a significant commitment. In the next three years, this should be completed despite delays often created as FP&L negotiate backyard easements with private property owners.
Village Manager Yocelyn Galiano explained, “At present, FPL is hardening SW 112th Street with taller wooden poles because that is a main transmission path that cannot go underground. Residents shot down concrete. We remain vigilant to create effective compromise and are happy with their progress.”
“The relationship has never been better with FPL and we are getting more done than ever before,” said Corradino. “Our Village staff has done a great job identifying the issues and working to create FPL action. We are on the edge of having a giant positive impact on our day-to-day electrical service.”