CLARK, Pa. -- Penn Power, a FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) electric company in western Pennsylvania, is upgrading infrastructure in Mercer and Crawford counties to reinforce the local power grid and prevent lengthy service disruptions, especially during severe weather. Work includes installation of new, automated equipment and technology in distribution substations and along neighborhood power lines serving more than 15,000 customers in Transfer, Greenville, Hermitage, West Middlesex, Wheatland, Conneaut and nearby areas.
The work started in April and is expected to be completed this fall. It is part of Penn Power's second phase Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric service for customers. The company's investments to upgrade the local energy grid have successfully reduced the number and length of outages customers experience by up to 20% in areas where work has been completed.
"The work underway in Mercer and Crawford counties will reduce many power interruptions to just a brief or momentary outage, which will be particularly beneficial to customers in rural, tree-filled areas," said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy's Pennsylvania operations. "This work complements upgrades completed across our entire service area over recent years that have resulted in fewer and shorter outages, mainly during severe weather events."
Hundreds of homes and businesses in the area will benefit from the installation of nearly 20 new automated reclosing devices in the substations and along neighborhood power lines that will help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions. These electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergizing a substation or power line within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing to customers. This technology is safer and more efficient because it often allows utility personnel to automatically restore service to customers in lieu of sending a crew to investigate.
If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, it will isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected customers. The smart technology will quickly pinpoint the location of the fault and help utility personnel better understand the cause of the outage to help speed restoration.
Automated voltage regulators are also being installed to help ensure safe, constant voltage levels along power lines on extremely cold or hot days that create high demand for electricity. In addition to preventing voltage issues for customers, the devices could potentially reduce energy usage for some customers served near the beginning of a power line because they will benefit from lower power voltages being fed into their homes or businesses.
Lastly, additional power lines are being constructed to provide more flexibility in restoring outages due to events such as storms and vehicle accidents. The new power lines will help reduce the length and overall number of customers impacted during an outage by switching them to a backup line for faster service restoration.
Penn Power serves more than 160,000 customers in all or parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence and Mercer counties in western Pennsylvania. Follow Penn Power on Twitter @Penn_Power, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennPower, and online at www.pennpower.com.
FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company's transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy online at www.firstenergycorp.com and on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.
Editor's Note: Photos of Penn Power crews installing the new automated equipment are available for download on Flickr.