Transformer shortage stifling local development

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — A shortage of transformers caused by supply chain snags is putting JEA in a pinch.

The power company says the issue is making it difficult for the utility to keep up with skyrocketing development in Northeast Florida.

In Northeast Florida, roughly 3,000 permits for single-family developments were pulled in 2012.

By 2021, that number had jumped to 16,000.

With roughly 100 people moving into Northeast Florida every day, meeting the demand for new homes is a challenge, but supply chain issues have plagued developers since the start of the pandemic.

“It really does put a pinch on development,” said Jesse Spradley with the Northeast Florida Builders Association.

Spradley said the latest products in short supply are transformers, a necessary component needed to connect new developments to the power grid.

The shortage means more delays for projects.

“What used to be anywhere from 18 months to two years is now three to four (years),” said Spradley.

JEA CEO Jay Stowe told us the power company did its best to prepare for the transformer shortage by increasing its stockpiles by 20% over the last year, taking steps to find new suppliers, and even refurbishing old units.

And so, we have enough supplies to cover if there’s storms or emergency events during a normal time or during a hurricane,” said Stowe.

Even with those preparations, Stowe said it hasn’t proven enough to keep up with the rapid growth in the region.

“Even though we took some proactive actions, the problem has gotten worse,” said Stowe.

Lake Ray with the First Coast Manufacturers Association is hopeful he can find a homegrown solution to the problem by utilizing local manufacturers to produce transformer components.

“Because this is not just a JEA crisis. It is a national crisis, but let’s get Jacksonville going,” said Ray.

Ray pointed out local manufacturers had pivoted to providing items like ventilators and face masks early in the pandemic;

He said he already had some local companies in mind that may be able to step up to the plate to help alleviate this new crisis, and he is in the early stages of making it happen.

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