Potomac Edison will spend $55 million to enhance power grid reliability

Potomac Edison, a unit of FirstEnergy Corp. (FE), plans to spend about $55 million in 2013 to enhance the electrical system and reliability in its western Maryland and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia service areas.

Major projects scheduled for this year include transmission improvements, building new distribution circuits, replacing underground cables, inspecting and replacing utility poles and ongoing vegetation management programs.

Potomac Edison's 2013 enhancements are expected to have benefits customers throughout the service area. More than $23 million will be spent on a variety of transmission expansions and enhancements intended to increase the capacity and robustness of Potomac Edison's high-voltage transmission system. Other scheduled projects include:

·      Upgrading a 138-kV line in Frederick County, Md., at a cost of more than $3 million to ensure ongoing reliable service for more than 65,000 customers in Carroll, Frederick, Howard and Montgomery counties.

·      Adding high-voltage equipment and other improvements to a substation at a cost of $5 million to enhance service reliability in fast-growing Frederick County and the region.

·      Purchasing several spare high-voltage power transformers at a cost of more than $1 million to help reduce outage duration, if needed.

·      Spending more than $500,000 to replace aging equipment and install new monitoring technology in the Ridgeley Substation in Ridgeley, W. Va., to ensure continued reliability to about 13,000 customers in Allegany County, Md.

·      Spending more than $17 million as part of Potomac Edison's ongoing vegetation management program to trim trees and maintain proper clearances to help reduce tree-related storm damage. Some of the scheduled areas include Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, Berkeley and Washington counties.

·      Upgrading equipment on about 90 distribution circuits throughout the service territory to enhance service reliability at a cost of $2.7 million. The improvements – installing new wire, cable and fuses – are expected to enhance the electrical system and reliability for about 65,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia.

·      Replacing underground distribution cables. Work totaling more than $3 million will target Damascus and Mt. Airy in Frederick County, Shepherdstown in Jefferson County, W. Va., and Wardensville in Hardy County, W. Va. Outages involving underground wires often take longer to restore than overhead outages.

·      Dividing two large distribution circuits in the Germantown and Urbana areas to prepare for load expansion in high-growth areas and reduce outage frequency for more than 3,500 Potomac Edison customers in Frederick and Montgomery counties.

·      Installing a new distribution line to accommodate recent development and prepare for future growth in the Spring Mills area of Berkeley County, W. Va.

·      Transferring more than 1,700 Potomac Edison customers in the Augusta area of Hampshire County, W. Va., to another circuit to improve service reliability.

·      Inspecting and proactively replacing distribution and sub-transmission utility poles in the Potomac Edison service area. The inspection process is conducted on a 10-year cycle in Maryland and a 12-year cycle in West Virginia. About 33,000 utility poles will be inspected in 2013, with about 500 expected to be replaced.

Potomac Edison serves about 250,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and 132,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

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