Penelec invests $197 million on power grid improvements

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FirstEnergy Corp. invested about $197 million in 2015 in the Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) service area on infrastructure projects and other work, including building new transmission lines, installing remote-control equipment, and adding laptop computers on line trucks and other vehicles to help enhance the reliability of its system.

Some of the key FirstEnergy projects in Penelec's 17,600 square mile territory in 2015 include:

·      Installing new devices, such as fuses and other automatic devices, at a cost of about $9.3 million, to help limit the number and duration of outages across the entire Penelec service territory.

·      Constructing several new power lines and rebuilding others at a cost of nearly $6 million to serve natural gas pumping stations being constructed in central Pennsylvania. The work also will enhance service reliability for about 3,000 Penelec customers in the region. The new distribution lines run nearly 15 miles from existing Penelec substations in McConnellstown and Blain and will provide electric service to new natural gas pumping stations being built in Marcklesburg and Doylesburg.

·      Installing laptop computers on more than 400 line trucks and support vehicles to enhance service and manage repair work more efficiently. The $3.8 million project was completed during 2015. Using the new laptops will help crews save time by viewing work orders electronically rather than writing the information down when radioed or phoned in from the company's dispatching office. The laptop computers also use global positioning technology to provide turn-by-turn directions to work locations.

·      Installing equipment to help maintain proper voltage levels. This benefits Penelec's industrial and large commercial customers that operate large motors, drives and other machinery.

·      Spending approximately $4 million inspecting and replacing distribution poles in the Penelec service area. During 2015, about 41,000 wood poles were inspected and damaged poles were replaced or reinforced, as needed.

About $59 million of the overall 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.

Penelec 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, Penelec, along with FirstEnergy's other utilities, also reinstated the Power Systems Institute, a worker training program that combines learning hands-on utility skills at company training facilities with technical coursework at local community college classrooms. About 26 students currently are enrolled in Power Systems Institute programs in the Penelec area, with recruiting efforts underway for the next class that will begin school this fall.

Penelec serves about 600,000 customers in 31 Pennsylvania counties.

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