As part of its ongoing efforts to strengthen the durability and flexibility of its electric system, FirstEnergy Corp. plans to invest about $160 million in 2014 on infrastructure upgrades to enhance service reliability in West Penn Power's 24-county service area. This represents about a $41 million increase compared to what the company invested in reliability and infrastructure in the region last year.
Major projects scheduled for this year include transmission improvements to reinforce the system and support economic growth, construction of new circuits, inspection and replacement of utility poles and other equipment, and continuing tree trimming work, including a special program to remove trees endangered by the Emerald Ash Borer.
"The planned infrastructure projects are designed to further enhance the reliability of our system which will benefit our West Penn Power customers now, while also preparing our system for future load growth," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. "When combined with the 2013 infrastructure projects, FirstEnergy is on track to spend more than $279 million over a two-year timeframe in the West Penn Power area to focus on our primary objective of providing the quality of service our customers expect and deserve."
Of FirstEnergy's $160 million infrastructure investment in the region for 2014, more than $23 million will be for transmission-related projects built and owned by Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company, a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate. Scheduled projects include:
- Installing a new transformer at a substation in Armstrong County at a cost of about $22 million.
- Spending more than $25 million to trim trees along more than 4,500 miles of distribution and transmission lines as part of West Penn Power's ongoing program to help maintain proper clearances and protect against tree-related storm damage.
- Investing about $1 million in western Pennsylvania to proactively remove trees damaged by the Emerald Ash Borer, particularly those that could fall on West Penn Power's equipment and result in service interruptions.
- Investing more than $23 million on various projects to expand the distribution system throughout West Penn Power's 24-county service area.
- Building new transmission switching facilities in central Pennsylvania to help enhance transmission reliability and capacity in the State College and St. Marys regions at a cost of more than $10 million.
- Investing $2.1 million to increase the transmission capacity of the Enon Substation near Ryerson Station in Greene County to help support the electricity demand of area coal mines.
- Reinforcing breakers at the 500-kilovolt (kV) Yukon Substation in Washington County for added protection of equipment across West Penn Power's extra-high voltage transmission system in southwest Pennsylvania at a cost of more than $800,000.
- Adding additional distribution line capacity in the Park Hills area of State College to help support new student housing and related development, an investment of nearly $600,000.
- Upgrading the Byerly Crest distribution substation in the North Huntington area of Route 30 in Westmoreland County to help enhance service reliability for more than 2,000 customers at a cost of more than $300,000.
- Building a new 2-mile distribution line in the Manifold area of Washington, Pa., to help support increased residential and commercial growth at a cost of more than $360,000.
- Inspecting about 54,000 utility poles and replacing or reinforcing about 1,100 poles at a cost of nearly $4 million. This inspection process is conducted on a 12-year cycle in Pennsylvania, and replacement work is scheduled to be completed by the end of fall.
- Upgrading equipment on 135 distribution circuits throughout the service territory to help enhance service reliability. These improvements – including installing new wire, cable and fuses – are expected to enhance the electrical system and reliability of service for 55,000 West Penn Power customers in Pennsylvania at a cost of more than $600,000.