Just as Duke Energy encourages customers to prepare for hurricane season, the company is readying its crews – and electric grid.
From Florida to the Carolinas, the company is modernizing its grid to make it stronger and more resistant to outages from severe weather, and more resilient to restore power faster when disruptions occur.
Crews upgraded poles and power lines, placed outage-prone lines underground and installed self-healing technology. This technology helped avoid more than 1.4 million customer outages in 2022, saving more than 7.2 million hours of total lost outage time.
“If we can isolate a problem, especially during a storm, it frees up lineworkers,” said Duke Energy spokesman Jeff Brooks. "That’s a crew available to help somewhere else."
Duke Energy meteorologists predict 17 named storms in 2023, including 10 hurricanes and three major hurricanes, Category 3 or higher, with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
It's right in line with the forecast from scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
“There are two things to watch,” said lead meteorologist Max Thompson. "An El Niño is likely to develop, which can suppress Atlantic hurricane activity. But there's another factor, warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures, that may enhance the storms that do form."
To report an outage
Before a storm, customers should make sure their contact information and communication preferences are up to date so they receive updates on the status of a power outage.
Customers who experience an outage during a storm can report it on the Duke Energy mobile app, duke-energy.com, text OUT to 57801 or call the automated outage-reporting system for your utility:
- Duke Energy Carolinas: 800.769.3766
- Duke Energy Progress: 800.419.6356
- Duke Energy Florida: 800.228.8485
- Duke Energy Ohio/Kentucky: 800.543.5599
- Duke Energy Indiana: 800.343.3525
If one of these factors – an El Niño or a warm Atlantic Ocean – dominates, it could change how the season plays out.
“The biggest takeaway, I think, is to get prepared,” Thompson said. “Let’s have those conversations around safety, around planning and get the emergency items you need while the shelves are still stocked.”
Crews are replacing wood poles with steel in wind-prone coastal areas, as well as mountainous and remote areas that are difficult to reach. Power lines have been strengthened, as well, to withstand wind gusts and falling trees.
“Steel is less likely to fail during a hurricane,” Brooks said, “and these transmission lines power thousands of customers.”
In addition to high winds, major storms may cause flooding that can disrupt service. Duke Energy has reinforced flood barriers and relocated equipment at a dozen or so substations in the Carolinas.
Trees and vegetation near power lines, a leading cause of outages, are also maintained year-round as they threaten the reliable operation of the electric grid. And outage-prone lines have been moved underground.
“By monitoring the performance of individual segments between poles, we can find sections that consistently experience higher-than-normal outages,” Brooks said. “Maybe it’s in a heavily wooded area, for example. This data is important, though, because it signals to us that it’s worth the investment to move only that section underground.”
It improves the reliability of the entire line without the requiring the otherwise reliable overhead line to be placed underground. The same goes for flood barriers, installed only at substations in areas that are more likely to flood.
“We can tailor these upgrades in a way that control costs,” Brooks said, “which ultimately, helps us keep rates lower for customers.”
Self-healing technology benefits customers, as well, by instantly detecting outages, isolating the problem, and rerouting power – often in less than a minute, Brooks said, for up to 75% of customers who would have lost power.
In addition to making the grid more resilient, that same technology can optimize the electric grid to handle the two-way power flow that’s needed to expand innovative technologies like rooftop solar and electric vehicles. It’s foundational to Duke Energy’s clean energy transition, Brooks said, and its ability to add more renewables to the grid to reach net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
Make a plan before the storm
Just as Duke Energy prioritizes the safety of its crews, it encourages its customers to do the same by having a plan in case they experience an extended power outage during or after a storm.
- Prepare an emergency kit with nonperishable food items, a manual can opener, water, prescription medicines, a first-aid kit and more. Pet owners and families with babies should add other items to their kit, as needed.
- Keep a portable radio or TV or a NOAA weather radio to monitor weather forecasts and information from state and local officials.
- Charge mobile phones, computers and other electronic devices before storms to stay connected to safety and response information. Consider purchasing a portable charger and make sure it’s fully charged.
- Prepare a plan to move family members – especially those with special medical needs – to a safe, alternative location in case an extended power outage occurs, or evacuation is required.
- Review insurance policies and include copies of the policies and other documents in your emergency supply kit (ideally in a waterproof container).
- Pet owners should arrange to stay at evacuation shelters that accept pets, friends' or family members' homes, or pet-friendly hotels.
- Bookmark Duke Energy’s Outage Map, which lists reported outages and any estimated times of restoration. Customers can drill down to their neighborhood and even their address.
Familiarize yourself with other safety tips to ensure you know what to do if a storm impacts your community.