West Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp, plans to install new fuses on its distribution lines during the next five years to reduce customers affected by service interruptions from severe weather, tree contacts and equipment issues.
The work is part of West Penn Power’s Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), a $147 million initiative to accelerate capital investments through 2024, ensuring continued electric service reliability for the company’s 725,000 customers. Approximately $21 million of the initiative is expected to be spent on fuse work.
In 2020, West Penn Power line workers and contractors expect to install between 6,000 and 7,500 new fuses on distribution poles and wires throughout its service area. Fuses are protective devices made of polymer that automatically open when irregularity is detected, protecting electrical equipment and limiting the scope of an outage to a smaller section of the distribution line. Use of fuses means fewer customers are impacted by outages.
“Our eventual goal is to install enough new fuses to separate distribution lines into smaller blocks of 30 to 35 customers,” said John Rea, West Penn Power regional president. “Some longer circuits may be equipped with several hundred fuses, limiting the number of customers affected by an outage.”
It typically takes a two-person crew about an hour to install a new fuse, and crews can often safely accomplish the work without having to schedule a planned outage that interrupts service to customers.
In 2020, fuse installations will occur in numerous locations across West Penn Power’s service area, including work on:
- 23 circuits in Allegheny County
- 10 circuits in Armstrong County
- 21 circuits in Butler County
- 29 circuits in Centre County
- 16 circuits in Elk County
- 30 circuits in Fayette County
- 22 circuits in Franklin County
- 11 circuits in Greene County
- 30 circuits in Washington County
- 64 circuits in Westmoreland County
As a result of similar projects implemented during the company’s initial 2016-2020 LTIIP, the average number of West Penn Power customers impacted per power outage decreased by more than 10 percent. This initiative aims to increase that number.