Powering Paradise: 75 Years of Electric Power in the Lower Florida Keys
The Key West Art & Historical Society celebrates 75 years of electric power in the Lower Florida Keys with “Keys Energy Services: Powering Paradise for 75 Years,” a new exhibit that opensFriday, July 27, with a special reception held from 6:00pm-7:00pm in the Bumpus Gallery at the Custom House Museum, 281 Front Street.
“For this exhibition, we are not only celebrating Keys Energy Service’s 75th anniversary, we are also explaining to our visitors how we are able to enjoy a reliable source of power, and how hard our public utility company works to maintain their equipment,” says Society Curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D. “We want visitors to learn about the utility, what it does, how dangerous its job is, and how it educates our community about energy conservation.”
Though Key West “had electricity not long after Thomas Edison invented the incandescent light bulb” which was generated by the privately-owned Key West Electric Company in 1887, it was in 1943 that the city purchased the company, allowing residents more control over the utility, with the creation of a Utility Board to oversee it. Today, Keys Energy Services (KEYS) provides electricity from Key West to the Seven-Mile Bridge, serving more than 29,000 customers.
The exhibition explores elements of the utility’s 75-year history and continuing operations and will include information on its community services, ‘green initiatives,’ a Power-101 area, and a focus on safety. On loan are several items, including a section of a utility pole, safety gear, transformer, and a portion of a bucket truck that visitors will be able to use for selfies.
“A section on hurricanes will be included, not only focusing on hurricanes in the Florida Keys, but also how KEYS employees and equipment travel to other parts of the country to assist with storm recovery efforts,” says Convertito. “For instance, KEYS assisted in Long Island, New York, following Hurricane Sandy.”
Exhibit-goers will be pleased to discover that the 2004 and 2005 hurricane seasons resulted in the development of the KEYS’ ‘Storm Hardening Program,’ with 14,000 poles tested and 3,300 replaced over a five-year period; wood poles replaced with concrete, and poles being further fortified with the use of ductile iron today.
“None of the ‘storm hardened’ poles failed during Hurricane Irma,” says Lynne Tejeda, General Manager and CEO of KEYS.
Nationally recognized by the American Public Power Association as a Reliable Public Power Provider (RP3), KEYS also supports communities with its ‘Growing Greener Every Day’ initiative that helps conserve energy and improve the environment, including a tree giveaway, free home energy surveys, free energy conservation calendars, and a rebate program for energy efficient appliances. (Visit keysenergy.com/energy for more information).
While Key West Art & Historical Society is delighted to host the exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of KEYS, Tejeda says “the partnership is essential to helping tell the story of electricity in the Florida Keys and the history of KEYS over the last 75 years.
“During that time, we have become an integral part of the fabric of the community we serve, no matter the forecast.”
Powering Paradise: 75th Anniversary of Keys Energy” runs through November 26 and is sponsored in part by Keys Energy Services. For more information, call Curator Cori Convertito, Ph.D., at 305.295.6616 x 112 or visit kwahs.org. Your Museums. Your Community. It Takes an Island.