Using Tomorrow’s Technology Today: Interview with David Herlong

 Eric Swartz, David Herlong, and Stephen Cross

Eric Swartz, David Herlong, and Stephen Cross

What is your role at Florida Power & Light Company?

I’m the Senior Director of Distribution Control Center and Smart Grid Operations. I’ve worked here for 22 years. Before taking on my current role, I served as Director of Smart Grid and Innovation where I was responsible for key strategies in smart grid analytics, upgrading grid technology to improve situational awareness and leveraging our control center’s capabilities.

What does the Smart Grid and Innovation team do?

Simply put, we look to the future and see how we can use emerging technology to increase reliability for our customers. Within the last seven years reliability has increased by more than 30%, which is the top in Florida and among the best in the nation.

What is the biggest technical improvement that you’ve been a part of?

The biggest innovation and technical improvement would be the advent of the smart grid. When I was given the opportunity to lead the smart grid team I said, “The world is getting smarter and more tech savvy. Why can’t we? We must do better.” And, with our company’s commitment to continuous improvement – we did just that. Now we are utilizing smart meters, smart switches and thousands of other intelligent devices to modernize the grid. All of these technological advancements allow us to communicate with the grid, identify issues before customers are aware, and fix the problem faster than ever if one does arise. It is truly revolutionary for the energy industry.

Are there any challenges?

I enjoy working at FPL because of the people and the commitment to using technology to improve how we work. Plus, I really love seeing a vision come to life. It’s one thing to have an idea on paper but to have a team coming together as one to create something with such significance is very exciting to me. A challenge we face day in and day out, however, is Florida’s harsh tropical environment. Summer thunderstorms, hurricanes, heat and humidity, and salt water corrosion from the ocean are all real threats to what we create for and install on the grid. We test, and we test, and we test some more to ensure the product is durable and ready for those elements.