As part of its ongoing efforts to enhance its electric system, FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) invested $171 million in 2015 in the West Penn Power service area on reliability infrastructure projects and other work, including building new transmission lines, new substations, and installing remote-control equipment to help reduce the number and duration of power outages.
“Each year we undertake transmission and distribution projects that will help us enhance day-to-day service reliability for our customers,” said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. “The infrastructure work also helps prepare our system for future growth, including demand from western Pennsylvania’s growing Marcellus shale gas industry.”
Some of the key FirstEnergy projects in West Penn Power’s 24-county service area in 2015 include:
- Completing a new transmission substation near St. Mary’s, Pa., to reinforce the regional transmission system and enhance electric service reliability for about 95,000 West Penn Power customers in Elk County and surrounding areas. Overall, the multi-year project cost about $48 million, with about $33 million spent in 2015.
- Adding new equipment to increase and maintain voltage levels at an existing transmission substation near Houston, Pa. The $1 million substation upgrades support operations at an adjacent midstream gas processing plant.
- Installing equipment to maintain and increase voltage levels in a transmission substation near State College, Pa. The $1.4 millionproject should help accommodate future load growth in Centre County and is expected to enhance service reliability for about 64,000 West Penn Power customers in the area.
- Completing a new 1.7 -mile transmission line in Washington County, Pa. to provide electricity to a new natural gas compressor station in Robinson Township at a cost of about $3 million.
- Finishing various projects at a cost of about $24 million to expand the distribution system throughout West Penn Power’s 24-county service area.
- Adding additional distribution line capacity in the Park Hills area of State College to help support new student housing and related development at a cost of more than $250,000.
- Completing a new 2-mile distribution line in the Manifold area of Washington, Pa. and replacing a large substation power transformer to support increased residential and commercial growth at a cost of nearly $1.7 million.
- Upgrading a distribution substation in the North Huntington area of Route 30 in Westmoreland County for more than $450,000 to enhance service reliability for more than 2,100 customers.
- Building a new 1.3-mile distribution line in the Southpointe area of Canonsburg, Pa. to support increased residential and commercial growth at a cost of nearly $700,000.
- Constructing a new distribution line in the northern area of Uniontown, Pa. to support increased residential and commercial growth at a cost of more than $150,000.
- Repairing and replacing 331 wood utility poles at a cost of about $1.6 million. Crews inspected about 60,000 of 491,000 wood utility poles throughout the service area.
- Upgrading 158 distribution circuits throughout the service territory at a cost of $1.1 million to help enhance service reliability for more than 140,000 West Penn Power customers. These enhancements included installing cross arms, new wire, cable and fuses.
About $41 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.
West Penn Power 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.
West Penn Power also is continuing its Power Systems Institute program to train future linemen and substation electricians. The program combines learning hands-on utility skills at company training facilities with technical coursework at Westmoreland County Community College. Recruiting efforts are underway for the next class that will begin school this fall. Information about the Power Systems Institute is available at www.firstenergycorp.com/psi or by calling 800-829-6801 FREE.
West Penn Power serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties.
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