Federal grant to improve Lake Worth Beach utility’s power grid

U.S. Energy Department awards city $23,462,167
Published: Nov. 20, 2023 at 11:50 PM EST
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A $23,462,167 federal grant has been awarded to update the City of Lake Worth Beach’s power grid for its 37,000 customers.

Lake Worth Beach, which has agreed to match the grant using bond funds, is the only municipally-owned utility in Palm Beach County. The city generates its own power.

"You know the Little Train that Could," Lake Worth Beach commissioner Christopher McVoy, referring to the children's book, said. "We're small, we're municipally owned so if we can do at least as well or better than the investor-owned ones, it keeps the money in the community and does better."

Lake Worth Beach commissioner Christopher McVoy talks about the new federal grant to upgrade...
Lake Worth Beach commissioner Christopher McVoy talks about the new federal grant to upgrade its electric utility.

With the grant upgrades the city officials say fewer people will lose power, it will be restored quicker, be cheaper and more renewable.

“How will these 23 million dollars save people money?” WFLX reporter Joel Lopez asked.

"Primarily by lowering the cost of keeping the grid in good shape and lowering outages and the clean energy part of it helps too because at this point solar energy is cheaper to produce than fossil fuel energy," McVoy said.

The grant will also add more solar panels to the area landfill and battery storage.

Lake Worth Beach's outage numbers are better than Florida Power & Light, according to McVoy.

City officials say within four years they hope the improvements will reduce outages in the area by 35%.

Lake Worth Beach residents spend about $280 per month on electricity of $3,360 per year, according to EnergySage, Inc.On average, West Palm Beach residents, who are served by FPL, spend about $257 per month on electricity. That adds up to $3,084 per year.

McVoy also wants to relaunch the city's apprentice program to train more linemen.

"When was the last time that you lost power here?" Lopez asked Lake Worth Beach resident Chris Gworek.

"Yesterday in the middle of the afternoon, we had a short little less than one-two second power drop," Gworek sdaid. "Full out power loss may have been a few months back."

He said he's lived in Lake Worth Beach since 2004.

"I'm hoping it can withstand the storms and they notice or come up with even better technology that can improve it even better," Gworek said.

Over at Harry's Banana Farm, General Manager Lou Destout said power outages have impacted his restaurant over the years.

"In this business when you can't make ice, you can't keep the beer cool, the walk in cooler is down. It's devastating for a place like this," Destout said.

He said he likes it that Lake Worth Beach has its own power grid, and is optimistic the grant will maximize its potential.

"You solidify that grid, you make it more dependable and eventually you lose that reputation for being undependable," Destout said.

Mcvoy said the city is still waiting on final negotiations from the U.S. Department of Energy but that the grant money could start being put to use as early as March or June of 2024.

The funds are part of the Grid Resilience and Innovation Partnerships Program, which seeks to enhance grid flexibility and improve the resilience of the power system against growing threats of extreme weather and climate change. It is funded through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

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