Ohio utility illuminates grid modernization upgrades in progress

line work
FirstEnergy Line Restoration Bay Village OH. Credit FirstEnergy.

Yesterday, The Illuminating Company, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy said it is modernizing its electric system in eastern Cuyahoga County to help prevent or minimize the length of power outages. The work includes installation of new, automated reclosers in substations and along power lines serving more than 25,000 customers in parts of Ohio.

Utility personnel are upgrading electrical equipment in two Cuyahoga County substations as well as modernizing the power lines that deliver electric service to customers from those facilities. The crew is installing 65 new automated reclosing devices in the substations and along power lines to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions.

These 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. This technology is safer and more efficient, said the company, because it often allows utility personnel to automatically restore service to customers in lieu of sending a crew to investigate.

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“While we cannot eliminate the possibility of outages occurring due to reasons out of our control, like severe weather, we can take steps to minimize the impact of service interruptions when they do occur, often limiting them to just a brief or momentary outage,” said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy’s Ohio operations. “This work builds upon system upgrades that were completed in the area earlier this year that have helped reduce the frequency and length of power outages for many customers in Solon, Chagrin Falls and Bedford Heights.”

If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, it will isolate the outage to that area to limit the total number of affected customers. The device’s technology will quickly pinpoint the location of the fault and help utility personnel better understand the cause of the outage to help speed restoration.

To determine the best locations for these automated devices, utility personnel, in conjunction with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio, reviewed outage patterns across Cuyahoga County and identified areas that would benefit from new technology.

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Additional power lines that tie together existing circuits are also being constructed to isolate outages to smaller areas and provide more flexibility in restoring service following outages caused by events such as storms and vehicle accidents. When completed, the work will help reduce the overall number of customers impacted during an outage by switching them to a backup line for faster service restoration.

Lastly, more than 80 capacitor banks are being installed to help ensure all customers served by a single power line receive the same flow of safe, reliable power by evenly distributing electricity down the line. These devices are expected to reduce energy usage for customers served near the beginning of a power line because they will benefit from lower power voltages being fed into their homes or businesses.

The work underway in eastern Cuyahoga County began this year and is expected to be completed in the first half of 2022. Additional work is planned across the region as part of The Illuminating Company’s three-year portfolio of grid modernization work that began last year.

Beyond the infrastructure upgrades underway in the greater Bedford area, the company has completed tree-trimming work and equipment inspections this year along nearly 100 miles of power lines to reinforce existing infrastructure and minimize the impact of damage caused by severe weather.

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Jennifer Runyon is a Senior Content Director at Clarion Energy, writing, editing and posting content on POWERGRID International and planning conference sessions for DISTRIBUTECH's live and virtual events. She is the conference advisory committee chair for DISTRIBUTECH International. You can reach her at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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