In advance of the summer months, West Penn Power, a FirstEnergy Corp. unit, is completing projects, inspections and equipment maintenance in its 24-county western and central Pennsylvania service territory to enhance service reliability for customers.
Cost-effective helicopter patrols have completed inspections on more than 1,700 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the West Penn Power area. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken cross arms, failed insulators, and other hardware problems not visible from the ground. Potential reliability issues identified during the inspection will be prioritized and addressed immediately.
On the ground, the summer readiness inspections include using "thermovision" cameras to capture infrared images that can detect potential problems with West Penn Power substation equipment such as transformers and capacitors. By identifying hot spots, maintenance and repairs can be conducted prior to a power outage occurring.
Other utility work being done by West Penn Power crews includes inspecting distribution circuits, including transformers, capacitors, reclosers and lightning arrestors to ensure the equipment is operational and the lines are ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the summer, typically due to air conditioning usage.
Tree trimming is another key to preparing the West Penn Power system to meet the rigors of summer operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages. West Penn Power tree contractors have trimmed more than 1,700 circuit miles of electric lines since January and expect to trim another 2,800 miles by year end.
Crews also are finishing work on several projects in the West Penn Power service area designed to help enhance the reliability of the electric system in time for the summer. These projects include:
· Installing equipment to maintain and increase voltage levels in a substation near State College, Pa. The project is designed to help accommodate future load growth in Centre County and will help enhance service reliability to about 64,000 West Penn Power customers in the area. The project is expected to be completed and operational by June 1.
· Installing a new 70-foot wooden structure to help increase clearances and capacity on an existing transmission line that runs through South Huntingdon Township in Westmoreland County.
· Building a new FirstEnergy transmission substation near St. Mary's in Elk County, Pa. to support voltage on the regional 138,000-volt transmission system to help enhance service reliability for more than 95,000 FirstEnergy utility customers, including West Penn Power customers in Elk, Centre and Potter counties, and Penelec customers in Clearfield, Jefferson, Forest, Warren, McKean and Potter counties. The substation is expected to be completed and operational by June 1.
· Building a new 2-mile distribution line in the Manifold area of Washington County to help support commercial and residential growth.
In addition, a team of West Penn Power and FirstEnergy employees recently conducted a readiness exercise to test the company's restoration process used to repair storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in the wake of severe weather over the last several years.
West Penn Power serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties.