Oct 9, 2020

Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Program selects 3 Florida sites

Bizclik Editor
4 min
The program has led to £127.6m in investment and 165 jobs during the last seven years
The program has led to £127.6m in investment and 165 jobs during the last seven years...

Three Florida properties have been selected to participate in Duke Energy’s Site Readiness Program, which has led to £127.6 million in investment and 165 jobs during the last seven years.

The new sites are Tropicana Field Site in Pinellas County; 472 Properties in Volusia County; and Frostproof Business Park Site in Polk County. The Site Readiness Program will prepare these new sites for targeted commercial and industrial development to attract future capital investment, a statement says. 

Since 2013, Duke Energy has selected 34 high-quality industrial sites in Florida to participate in the program, it adds, explaining that it works with site owners, local economic development professionals, and county and city officials to identify each participating property's current status and develop a strategy for providing water, sewer, natural gas and electricity needed for development.

"I like to think of our Site Readiness Program as planting the seeds of success," says Catherine Stempien, president of Duke Energy Florida. "The Site Readiness Program plants the seeds for communities to cultivate by implementing the consultants' recommendations and investing in the readiness of their sites. After seven years of planting seeds across Florida, we are harvesting fruit. These new sites after going through the Duke Energy program will be the seeds that our communities can cultivate so that tomorrow we can harvest again."

The company adds that it worked with major site selection firms to evaluate each property. The consultants include Global Location Strategies of Greenville, S.C., Site Selection Group of Dallas, Texas, and Ardurra of Tampa, Fla., for engineering services. 

Once evaluations are complete, materials highlighting the property's attributes are used by Duke Energy's business recruitment team to help strategically market the sites nationwide for companies looking to expand or relocate their operations, it says.

Site Summaries

  • Tropicana Field Site (Pinellas County):

Spanning 86 acres of publicly owned land in the middle of downtown St. Petersburg and adjacent to I-275, the Tropicana Field site represents a development opportunity with existing infrastructure available for a large-scale master development.

"The Tropicana Field Redevelopment project is a once-in-a-generation opportunity to shape the future of St. Petersburg," said Alan DeLisle, city development administrator for St. Petersburg. 

"Recognised as one of America's fastest-growing cities and named one of the top places to start and grow a business, St. Pete's economic indicators strengthen each year. The Duke Energy Site Readiness Program helped the city identify the site's physical, workforce and economic strengths, so we could properly convey them to the development community as part of our RFP process. The Tropicana Field site presents endless possibilities to take this city on the rise to the next level."

  • 472 Properties (Volusia County):

A group of properties totalling more than 640 acres at the interchange of Interstate 4 and State Road 472. The site is a prime location for the rapidly growing logistics and distribution industry and offers a large and well-suited workforce.

"Team Volusia was excited about the opportunity to once again work with Duke Energy on its Site Readiness Program," said Keith Norden, president & CEO, Team Volusia Economic Development Corp. "The 472 interchange properties represent a tremendous opportunity for growth in the West Volusia area and with the feedback from SSG, Team Volusia is poised to position the area for development opportunities in food manufacturing, light assembly, professional services, distribution and warehousing.”

  • Frostproof Business Park Site (Polk County):

The Frostproof Business Park is 225 acres with two separate large contiguous, buildable sites of 115 and 90 acres. This site is located adjacent to State Road 17 and 3 miles east of U.S. Highway 27 near Nucor Corporation's recently announced micro-mill steel rebar facility. A labour force of more than 277,000 is within 45 minutes of the site.

"The Central Florida Development Council has had the pleasure of partnering with Duke Energy's economic development team on several Polk County sites identified as prime candidates for their Site Readiness Program," said Jennifer Taylor, vice president business development of the Central Florida Development Council.

"The Frostproof site is made up of 200 acres of rail-served land nestled between two major distribution centres – Lowe's and Ferguson’s."

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Jun 12, 2021

Why Transmission & Distribution Utilities Need Digital Twins

Petri Rauhakallio
6 min
Petri Rauhakallio at Sharper Shape outlines the Digital Twins benefits for energy transmission and distribution utilities

As with any new technology, Digital twins can create as many questions as answers. There can be a natural resistance, especially among senior utility executives who are used to the old ways and need a compelling case to invest in new ones. 

So is digital twin just a fancy name for modelling? And why do many senior leaders and engineers at power transmission & distribution (T&D) companies have a gnawing feeling they should have one? Ultimately it comes down to one key question: is this a trend worth our time and money?

The short answer is yes, if approached intelligently and accounting for utilities’ specific needs. This is no case of runaway hype or an overwrought name for an underwhelming development – digital twin technology can be genuinely transformational if done right. So here are six reasons why in five years no T&D utility will want to be without a digital twin. 

1. Smarter Asset Planning

A digital twin is a real-time digital counterpart of a utility’s real-world grid. A proper digital twin – and not just a static 3D model of some adjacent assets – represents the grid in as much detail as possible, is updated in real-time and can be used to model ‘what if’ scenarios to gauge the effects in real life. It is the repository in which to collect and index all network data, from images, to 3D pointclouds, to past reports and analyses.

With that in mind, an obvious use-case for a digital twin is planning upgrades and expansions. For example, if a developer wants to connect a major solar generation asset, what effect might that have on the grid assets, and will they need upgrading or reinforcement? A seasoned engineer can offer an educated prediction if they are familiar with the local assets, their age and their condition – but with a digital twin they can simply model the scenario on the digital twin and find out.

The decision is more likely to be the right one, the utility is less likely to be blindsided by unforeseen complications, and less time and money need be spent visiting the site and validating information.

As the energy transition accelerates, both transmission and distribution (T&D) utilities will receive more connection requests for anything from solar parks to electric vehicle charging infrastructure, to heat pumps and batteries – and all this on top of normal grid upgrade programs. A well-constructed digital twin may come to be an essential tool to keep up with the pace of change.

2. Improved Inspection and Maintenance

Utilities spend enormous amounts of time and money on asset inspection and maintenance – they have to in order to meet their operational and safety responsibilities. In order to make the task more manageable, most utilities try to prioritise the most critical or fragile parts of the network for inspection, based on past inspection data and engineers’ experience. Many are investigating how to better collect, store and analyze data in order to hone this process, with the ultimate goal of predicting where inspections and maintenance are going to be needed before problems arise.  

The digital twin is the platform that contextualises this information. Data is tagged to assets in the model, analytics and AI algorithms are applied and suggested interventions are automatically flagged to the human user, who can understand what and where the problem is thanks to the twin. As new data is collected over time, the process only becomes more effective.

3. More Efficient Vegetation Management

Utilities – especially transmission utilities in areas of high wildfire-risk – are in a constant struggle with nature to keep vegetation in-check that surrounds power lines and other assets. Failure risks outages, damage to assets and even a fire threat. A comprehensive digital twin won’t just incorporate the grid assets – a network of powerlines and pylons isolated on an otherwise blank screen – but the immediate surroundings too. This means local houses, roads, waterways and trees. 

If the twin is enriched with vegetation data on factors such as the species, growth rate and health of a tree, then the utility can use it to assess the risk from any given twig or branch neighbouring one of its assets, and prioritise and dispatch vegetation management crews accordingly. 

And with expansion planning, inspection and maintenance, the value here is less labor-intensive and more cost-effective decision making and planning – essential in an industry of tight margins and constrained resources. What’s more, the value only rises over time as feedback allows the utility to finesse the program.

4. Automated powerline inspection

Remember though, that to be maximally useful, a digital twin must be kept up to date. A larger utility might blanche at the resources required to not just to map and inspect the network once in order to build the twin, but update that twin at regular intervals.

However, digital twins are also an enabling technology for another technological step-change – automated powerline inspection.

Imagine a fleet of sensor-equipped drones empowered to fly the lines almost constantly, returning (automatically) only to recharge their batteries. Not only would such a set-up be far cheaper to operate than a comparable fleet of human inspectors, it could provide far more detail at far more regular intervals, facilitating all the above benefits of better planning, inspection, maintenance and vegetation management. Human inspectors could be reserved for non-routine interventions that really require their hard-earned expertise.

In this scenario, the digital twin provides he ‘map’ by which the drone can plan a route and navigate itself, in conjunction with its sensors. 

5. Improved Emergency Modelling and Faster Response

If the worst happens and emergency strikes, such as a wildfire or natural disaster, digital twins can again prove invaluable. The intricate, detailed understanding of the grid, assets and its surroundings that a digital twin gives is an element of order in a chaotic situation, and can guide the utility and emergency services alike in mounting an informed response.

And once again, the digital twin’s facility for ‘what-if’ scenario testing is especially useful for emergency preparedness. If a hurricane strikes at point X, what will be the effect on assets at point Y? If a downed pylon sparks a fire at point A, what residences are nearby and what does an evacuation plan look like?

6. Easier accommodation of external stakeholders

Finally, a digital twin can make lighter work of engaging with external stakeholders. The world doesn’t stand still, and a once blissfully-isolated powerline may suddenly find itself adjacent to a building site for a new building or road. 

As well as planning for connection (see point 1), a digital twin takes the pain out of those processes that require interfacing with external stakeholders, such as maintenance contractors, arborists, trimming crews or local government agencies – the digital twin breaks down the silos between these groups and allows them to work from a single version of the truth – in future it could even be used as part of the bid process for contractors.

These six reasons for why digital twins will be indispensable to power T&D utilities are only the tip of the iceberg; the possibilities are endless given the constant advancement of data collection an analysis technology. No doubt these will invite even more questions – and we relish the challenge of answering them. 


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