West Penn Power plans $235 million in power grid infrastructure projects

As part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen the durability and flexibility of its electric transmission and distribution systems, FirstEnergy Corp. plans to invest about $235 million during 2017 on infrastructure upgrades to enhance service reliability in West Penn Power’s 24-county service area.

Major projects scheduled include: transmission enhancements to reinforce the electric system and support economic growth, including the shale gas industry; constructing new circuits and replacing utility poles; and installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles.

“Our goal is to pursue transmission and distribution projects that not only enhance service to our existing customers, but also prepare our system to accommodate future economic growth,” said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. “Proactive upgrades to our distribution system include the installation of automated and remote control devices designed to reduce the number and duration of service disruptions our customers might experience.”

FirstEnergy projects planned in West Penn Power’s service area in 2017 include:

·      Completing a new transmission substation in Washington County to support two new midstream gas processing facilities near Burgettstown, Pa., that require large amounts of electricity. The project also includes specialized voltage-regulating equipment engineered to respond to real-time electrical conditions, which is expected to benefit more than 40,000 West Penn Power customers in Washington and Allegheny counties. About $11 million of the $40 million project will be spent this year. The new substation is scheduled to be completed and fully operational in mid-2017.

·      Rebuilding a 7.5-mile, 69-kV line connecting a substation near Grove City in Mercer County to a substation near Slippery Rock in Butler County, to enhance service reliability for about 25,000 West Penn Power customers. Pending regulatory approval, the line will be reconstructed using 120 new wood pole structures, with about four miles located in West Penn Power’s service area and the rest in neighboring Penn Power’s service area. The substation near Slippery Rock will be upgraded with four new breakers and a reconfigured transformer to accommodate higher voltage. The project has a total cost of about $14.8 million. Construction would begin after regulatory approval is received, perhaps as early as fall 2017.

·      Replacing protective relay equipment in a transmission substation near Butler, Pa., at a cost of about $450,000. The controls monitor conditions on a transmission line connecting the substation with a substation near Zelienople, Pa., and, if a fault occurs, quickly operate breakers to stop the flow of electricity to protect vital substation equipment from damage.

·      Providing underground electrical service to support the initial phase of a new 2 million square-foot commercial development in South Fayette Township near Interstate 79 and Route 50 in Allegheny County.

·      Building a transmission line to provide electric service to a new section of a coal mine near Mt. Morris in Greene County at a cost of about $1 million. The new line will interconnect with an existing transmission line and is scheduled to be in service in fall 2017.

·      Building a 1.3-mile transmission line at a cost of about $4 million to provide electrical service to a natural gas processing facility under development in Smith Township, Washington County, near Burgettstown, Pa.

·      Investing about $21 million on various reliability projects throughout West Penn Power’s 24-county service area.

·      Installing new switches and automating other equipment throughout the West Penn Power area at a cost of nearly $5 million to help speed service restoration to customers following a service interruption.

·      Upgrading distribution substations across West Penn Power’s service area with more than $3 million in fault-monitoring equipment to detect and locate problems on lines to help crews more quickly restore power when service is interrupted.

·      Inspecting about 36,000 utility poles and replacing or reinforcing about 240 poles at a cost of more than $1.2 million. This inspection process is conducted on a 12-year cycle in Pennsylvania, and replacement work is scheduled to be conducted throughout the year.

·      Upgrading equipment on 134 distribution circuits throughout the service territory to help enhance service reliability at a cost of about $2 million. These improvements – including installing cross arms, hardware, and other equipment – are expected to enhance the electrical system and reliability of service for more than 95,000 West Penn Power customers.

·      Replacing underground cable throughout the distribution system for $450,000. Locations include Quail Acres in Washington County and Saybrook Village in Westmoreland County.

About $23 million of the budgeted total will be for transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co. (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.

In 2016, FirstEnergy spent about $200 million in the West Penn Power area on hundreds of large and small transmission and distribution projects, including building new substations and transmission lines, adding equipment to existing locations, installing voltage-regulating equipment and automated controls, and replacing poles.

West Penn Power serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties.


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