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Keys Utility: New Devices Will Keep Iguanas Out And The Power On

Keys Energy Services
Transformers at a Key West substation before, left, and after devices are installed to keep iguanas from triggering power outages.

People in South Florida have lots of reasons to resent iguanas. They pillage the garden. They poop in the pool. And in the Keys, they sometimes knock out the power.

Now Keys Energy Services, the utility that provides power from the Seven Mile Bridge to Key West, is taking steps to prevent that.

"In the last year alone we had three transmission line outages that were directly attributed to iguanas," said Julio Torrado, spokesman for Keys Energy.

This week, Keys Energy started installing six new devices called green jackets at a Key West substation that has been the worst iguana magnet.

The devices are fiberglass caps that go over parts of the transformers in the substations. That's where the iguanas go to get warm in the winter. If they touch the wrong part, it triggers an outage.

Credit Keys Energy Services
This iguana triggered a 10-minute power outage in Key West in December and emerged a little charred, but alive.

The iguana guards for the first substation cost about $17,000 and the utility hopes to put them in five more substations.

"An outage is an outage to our customers and we want to make sure that we're reliable in maintaining the power for them," Torrado said.

He said the investment will be worth it over time, and the utility plans to roll out the rest of the green jackets over the next year.

Errant reptiles aren't the only unusual reason the Keys sometimes lose power, even in good weather.

"We have sailboats striking power lines," Torrado said. "Our friends to the north, at all the conferences I attend, always contend with squirrels. Unfortunately or fortunately, squirrels are not something that we deal with. But the iguanas are our type of squirrels."

Usually the iguanas survive — even after taking a 69,000-volt charge from the electric equipment.

"We frequently see where the iguana is off to the side, kind of missing a tail," Torrado said. "He or she is the obvious culprit of the outage and they're just missing an extremity. I guess lucky for them."

Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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