First Energy subsidiaries announce reliability upgrades in West Virginia, Maryland

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New circuit and automated technology for Potomac Edison customers in West Virginia; New substation for Penn Power customers in Pennsylvania.

Potomac Edison, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. said this week that it has completed an upgrade to the electrical system serving Grant County, West Virginia, that will enhance service reliability for more than 2,100 customers while another FirstEnergy Corp subsidiary Penn Power said it has started construction on a new distribution substation in Lawrence County to support the area’s growing demand for electricity and provide more flexibility in restoring power faster.

Potomac Edison

Potomac Edison’s upgrade involved splitting a 286-mile circuit of power lines that deliver electricity from a substation to customers in the Maysville area into two smaller circuits. The circuit was previously the largest by mileage within FirstEnergy. With the split, one 175-mile circuit now serves approximately 1,240 customers in Maysville, Scherr and Greenland, and the other 112-mile circuit serves approximately 900 customers in Arthur and Lahmansville.

With two smaller circuits, Potomac Edison said it will be able to manage demand more efficiently and limit the number of customers impacted by outages, particularly those caused by severe weather.

In addition, the circuits are connected by automated reclosers that will automatically switch customers to an adjacent power source in the event of certain outages. By tying customers to a second source of power, Potomac Edison will be able to further enhance reliability and minimize the frequency and duration of service interruptions that customers experience, it said. This is the first time Potomac Edison has completed an automation project of this kind in West Virginia.

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Overall, the $1.4 million project included the installation of three automated reclosers, new line regulators for voltage support, and line construction and replacement in various places along the two circuits. The work began last year and was completed in late July.

“The strategic investment in our system will generate meaningful benefits for customers in Grant County by reducing the impact of outages caused by severe weather events and enhancing our service restoration capabilities in the area,” said James A. Sears, Jr., vice president of Potomac Edison.

Potomac Edison serves about 275,000 customers in Maryland and about 151,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Penn Power

Penn Power’s new distribution substation in Lawrence County, Pennsylvania is designed to support the area’s growing demand for electricity and provide more flexibility in restoring power faster. The project includes installation of automated equipment and technology within the new substation and along power lines serving more than 30,000 customers in parts of New Castle, North Beaver Township, Shenango Township and nearby areas.

“Every project we do is customized and designed to address the particular reliability needs of each community where work is being done,” said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Penn Power and Ohio Edison. “The work underway in Lawrence County will help meet the growing energy demands of our customers for many years to come and help reduce power interruptions to just a brief or momentary outage.”

As part of the construction process, crews recently completed the foundation work at the new substation site in North Beaver Township and will begin erecting steel structures at the facility in mid-September. The project also includes construction of a short, high-voltage power line to connect the new substation with an existing 69-kilovolt (kV) line located nearby. Such ties offer a backup power feed that will help keep the lights on for customers if wires or equipment on their regular line are damaged or need to be taken out of service, said the utility. The new substation is expected to be completed and operational by the end of this year.

Once the new facility is in use, the new automated reclosing devices in the substation and along power lines that are fed from the facility will help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions, said Penn Power.

The electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergizing a substation or power line within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing to customers. The utility said the technology is safer and more efficient because it often allows utility personnel to automatically restore service to customers rather than sending a crew to investigate.

If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, it will isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected customers. T

“Upgraded substations are the first line of defense in preventing power outages because they supply the electricity that flows across our power lines to our customers,” said Shuttleworth. “Think of a substation like a sprinkler. Each stream of water coming out of the sprinkler hits different parts of the lawn, just like individual power lines feed electricity to various neighborhoods.”

This work builds upon system upgrades that were completed last year across Penn Power’s service area, including the installation of nearly 50 automated reclosing devices and the addition of interior fencing in three substations to help deter climbing animals and protect against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages.

It is part of Penn Power’s second phase Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric service for customers. The company’s investments to upgrade the local energy grid have reduced the number and length of outages customers experience by 20% in areas where work has been completed since 2016.

Penn Power serves more than 160,000 customers in parts of western Pennsylvania.

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at

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