As winter approaches, The Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power) is wrapping up major projects expected to enhance electric service reliability for nearly 20,000 customers in Mercer County.
The projects include installing approximately 1,000 new poles and replacing more than 184,000 feet of power lines with thicker, durable wire designed to withstand severe winter elements like ice and heavy, wet snow. In addition, customers will benefit from installation of 72 new automated reclosing devices that can help restore power to customers within seconds in the event of a power outage and significantly reduce the length of an outage.
The work should be completed by the end of the year and is part of Penn Power's 2016-2020 Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP) approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric service for customers.
"Winter storms have the potential to cause damage to poles, wires and substations, requiring crews to make repairs in difficult conditions," said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Penn Power and Ohio Edison. "The completion of this work ahead of winter is a win-win because it strengthens our electric system and keeps the lights on for customers when they depend on it the most to stay warm and comfortable."
The projects include the creation of additional circuit ties along power lines that allow for more flexibility in restoring an outage. A single circuit can serve thousands of customers, which means an outage due to a fallen tree on a power line could affect all customers served by that circuit. Circuit ties essentially split the circuit into sections, isolating outages to a smaller number of areas and reducing the overall number of customers impacted during an outage by switching them to a different circuit for faster service restoration.
In preparation for winter, Penn Power utility workers also have completed inspections and conducted equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
The work includes the use of special thermal-imaging cameras to detect hot spots, or weak points, invisible to the naked eye on electrical equipment prone to overheating and malfunctioning as customers crank up their heaters to combat the cold. Substation electricians also inspected batteries used to power relays that sense faults on the network and motors that automatically operate switches to isolate those problems, helping to prevent service interruptions or limit their size and scope.