FirstEnergy Corp. invested $119 million in 2015 in the Potomac Edison service area on infrastructure projects and other work, including building new transmission lines, new substations, and installing remote-control equipment as part of its ongoing efforts to enhance the reliability of its electric system.
"The infrastructure projects we completed in 2015 and in previous years are making a difference when it comes to making our system more robust," said James A. Sears, Jr., president of FirstEnergy's Maryland Operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "Results showed that Potomac Edison customers experienced fewer outages in 2015 than the year before, and when outages did occur, they were shorter than in the previous year."
Some of the key FirstEnergy projects in Potomac Edison's service area in 2015 include:
· Completing a $34 million substation expansion in eastern Frederick County, which included installation of voltage regulating equipment, to help reinforce the regional transmission system and enhance electric service reliability for about 125,000 Potomac Edison customers in Frederick, eastern Frederick County and western Montgomery County.
· Replacing the wire on three transmission lines at a cost of more than $6 million, including about 14 miles of a line between Millville and Old Chapel substations; three miles of a line between Bartonville and Stephenson substations; and two miles on another line between Stephenson and Stonewall substations. The work will help reinforce the transmission system in Jefferson County, W.Va., benefitting about 26,000 customers.
· Upgrading equipment on about 260 distribution circuits throughout Potomac Edison's service area at an estimated cost of $10.2 million. The work – installing new wire, cable and fuses – reinforces the electrical system and enhances reliability for nearly 200,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia.
· Reconductoring five miles of an existing line with heavier wire to enhance electric service reliability for more than 1,400 customers in New Windsor, Md. at a cost of about $1.1 million.
· Building a new distribution line in Hampshire County, W.Va., at a cost of about $300,000, to enhance service reliability for more than 2,000 customers in the north-central section of the county.
· Replacing underground distribution cables with new equipment. Work totaled more than $3.4 million across the service territory, with a focus in Frederick and Montgomery counties Maryland.
· Spending $1.7 million to inspect about 36,000 utility poles throughout Potomac Edison's service area and proactively replace about 250.
· About $21 million of the total was spent on transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission company.
Planning is continuing for additional projects that are expected to be completed in 2016, including new substations, transmission lines and circuit upgrades.
Potomac Edison also began using two new apps in 2015 to more efficiently assess damage to the electrical system and dispatch crews to make repairs in the wake of major storm events. Employees in the field can use this new mobile device technology to automatically enter damage information into the company's outage management system which helps restore the most customers to service in the shortest amount of time.
In 2015, Potomac Edison also continued its Power Systems Institute program to train future line workers. The program combines learning hands-on utility skills at company training facilities with technical coursework at Blue Ridge Community and Technical College in Martinsburg, W. Va. Recruiting efforts are underway for the next class that will begin school this fall.
Potomac Edison serves about 250,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and 132,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.