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All transformers now in hand for FPL undergrounding project

The project team recently received the remaining transformers for Phases 3 and 4 and will continue to finalize Phase 2.

Florida Power & Light's underground utilities project remains in progress, eyeing a finish line in early 2024.
Florida Power & Light's underground utilities project remains in progress, eyeing a finish line in early 2024.
Photo by Carter Weinhofer
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The FPL underground utility project seems to be back on track. 

In an emailed update to town commissioners, Town Manager Howard Tipton said that Phase 2 of the underground utility project is nearing the finish line, and that all required transformers for Phases 3 and 4 were delivered. 

According to the update, Florida Power & Light has given the final residential switch orders for Phase 2, which are expected to be converted next week. 

Wilco Electrical is also continuing to convert overhead power to underground in Phase 2. Less than half a dozen are remaining, Tipton said, but all the ones remaining are ready to go. 

Phase 2 pole removal will also tentatively begin within the next week. 

For Phase 3 and 4, a total of 24 transformers were needed to correct an early oversight on FPL’s end. Those 24 transformers have now been received by Wilco Electrical. 

FPL and the construction team discovered the error in June 2023, when Wilco Electrical was opening existing underground transformers and realized those would not be compatible with the new system. 

At the time, it was estimated that it would cost around $300,000 to $500,000 for those replacements. But that cost would not be on the town. 

In a commission meeting in July 2023, Hau Tran said that more setbacks weren’t likely. Tran is the FPL project manager for overhead to underground conversions for the state. 

“I can’t guarantee that we won’t have any more setbacks, but transformers are really the end of the line,” Tran said at the meeting. “I don’t foresee anything, but I can’t guarantee that there won’t be.”

Supply chain delays also slowed down the progress of getting the remaining transformers once the problem was realized. 

Now with those transformers in hand, Wilco Electrical is getting FPL approval to authorize shutdowns, according to Tipton’s emailed update. 

Phase 3 conversions will continue while Wilco Electrical works through transformer changing and scheduling with FPL. 

But for Phase 4, switching and conversions can’t start until Phase 2 is complete. Wilco Electrical will start working on changing out the transformers, though, while waiting for Phase 2 to wrap up. 

Tipton said that “scheduling and coordination is key” when changing out transformers in Phases 3 and 4, since there is a large number of customers in those areas. 

FPL representatives will be present at the Town Commission’s workshop on March 25 to share more updates and address possible future planning for adapting to flooding in lower-lying areas based on their recent investigation.



Carter Weinhofer

Carter Weinhofer is the Longboat Key news reporter for the Observer. Originally from a small town in Pennsylvania, he moved to St. Petersburg to attend Eckerd College until graduating in 2023. During his entire undergraduate career, he worked at the student newspaper, The Current, holding positions from science reporter to editor-in-chief.

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