With Hurricane Gordon barreling down on the Mississippi Gulf Coast last week, Entergy officials were ready, weeks after the opening of a new $20 million distribution operations center (DOC).
A ribbon-cutting for the new downtown Jackson facility was held in late July, at the height of hurricane season.
The 35,000-square-foot facility is a major step being taken by Entergy to respond in the aftermath of storms like Gordon, as well as strengthen its electrical grid.
For customers, the new center will eventually mean a quicker response to power outages and natural disasters.
“This is Entergy Mississippi’s hub for reliability, resiliency and stability in our distribution grid,” Entergy Mississippi President and CEO Haley Fisackerly said.
The center will act as a nerve center and serve the infrastructure that powers approximately 449,000 customers in 45 counties, according to an Entergy news release.
Among features, the two-story building has redundant data and power feeds to aid in Entergy’s disaster response. The center also can shift operations to sister companies if Entergy needs support after a major storm or natural disaster.
The building also houses the company’s “war room,” which is a command center for major restoration efforts.
“The technology in the facility now greatly enhances our ability to share information more quickly and to better coordinate restoration activities associated with major storms,” Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said.
“All in all, we now have more capability to better manage restoration activities, which ultimately will result in reducing the total length of the (power) restoration period.”
The DOC is located at 740 South S. and replaces the former operations center, which was located on Tombigbee Street.
The previous center “will serve as temporary offices for some of our nuclear employees as our nuclear headquarters on Echelon Parkway (is) being renovated. After that, the building will be demolished,” said Entergy spokeswoman Mara Hartmann.
Once the Echelon property is reopened, the 111-year-old Tombigbee location will be demolished.
Entergy purchased the current DOC property in the 1980s from Stuart Irby Co. The facility was initially built as a warehouse and maintains some of the original architectural features.
Next up, Entergy is planning to install new advanced meters across the service area. “Every Mississippi customer will have the opportunity to upgrade their current meter with an advanced meter. Deployment of the advanced metering is expected to begin in the spring of 2019, with project completion scheduled for 2021,” Hartmann said.
Plans for upgrading the new meters were approved by the Mississippi Public Service Commission in May 2017. The new meters will give Entergy a “clearer, real-time picture of the power grid and how it is operating,” according to a 2017 news release. “Outages (will be) identified more accurately, so crews can arrive on the scene more quickly to make repairs.”
Rates were not increased to cover construction costs.