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Gulf Power will soon begin a five-year, $83 million effort to upgrade downtown Pensacola’s aging power grid, the company announced Thursday.

Gulf Power crews working in downtown Pensacola. (Gulf Power/Special to The Pulse)

Much of the infrastructure that delivers power to downtown Pensacola dates to the 1940s. Beginning early this year, Gulf Power will partner with the City of Pensacola to modernize the downtown power grid, improving reliability and redundancy and allowing capacity to be increased as the area grows.

“These projects are part of Gulf Power’s five-year program to replace and upgrade systems to better serve our customers in the downtown area,” said Gulf Power spokesman Rick DelaHaya. “Although the power network has been meticulously maintained over the years, it is 70 years old, and the time has come to replace outdated equipment and update the system. These upgrades will improve reliability through updated smart grid monitoring devices that can speed up power restoration.”

The new project comes after Gulf Power crews worked last summer to replace and consolidate downtown’s above-ground utility poles. A number of overhead line crossings and transformers were also removed in a bid to improve the aesthetics of the area.

“The key to keeping reliability high for customers is investing in technology, maintenance and upgrades,” DelaHaya added. “Making sure our customers can count on us for reliable energy is very important, and the investments we continue to make in our system are paying off.”

In a statement, Gulf Power touted more that $225 million the company has invested in infrastructure upgrades across the region. The upgrades have improved reliability for the utility’s 460,000 customers by almost 20 percent since 2010, the company said, adding that Gulf Power customers are enjoying fewer outages than in any time in recent history.

“The goal is to make the electric grid system more resilient, more fault-tolerant and durations of outages shorter, while providing a system of redundancies,” DelaHaya said.

Specifically, some of the upgrades across the company’s service area have included the installation of so-called “smart technology” such as smart, self-healing equipment, and replacing wooden transmission structures with concrete poles and wooden cross arms with steel arms.

“The existing systems downtown have served the area well for many years,” said DelaHaya. “We are upgrading the system and ushering in a new era of reliability and redundancies to continue to provide safe, reliable service to area homes and businesses.”

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