In preparation for winter, Metropolitan Edison (Met-Ed), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., is completing inspections and conducting equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
Cold temperatures produce increased demand for electricity, and heavy snow and wind have the potential to cause damage to poles, wires and substations, requiring crews to make repairs in difficult conditions. Completing inspections and maintenance of equipment now can help to enhance system reliability when the snow begins to fly.
"Winter maintenance procedures on our infrastructure help make our system more reliable during colder temperatures," said Ed Shuttleworth, Met-Ed regional president. "Coupled with winter maintenance for our vehicles, these efforts help us provide more reliable service to our customers."
The work includes inspecting heating equipment for substation components, such as capacitor banks, transformers, and oil- and gas-filled circuit breakers. Some substations also include buildings that house remote-controlled relay equipment. These structures will be winterized and have the heating systems checked.
Company bucket trucks and other vehicles also are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season. Special emphasis is placed on the condition of tires and any air braking systems, which can freeze up if moisture is present. Also, the diesel fuel used in company vehicles contains a special winter additive that prevents the fuel from gelling in the cold. Trucks are outfitted with anti-skid materials like sand and salt, and tire chains are inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
In addition, snow removal equipment is being checked, including plows and blowers used to help crews gain access to substations and to clear the work areas and sidewalks at company service garages and other facilities.
Helicopter patrols also are completing inspections on approximately 1,400 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the Met-Ed area. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken cross arms, failed insulators, and other hardware problems not visible from the ground. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspection may then be addressed.
Tree trimming throughout the year also helps meet the rigors of winter operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages. Met-Ed tree contractors have trimmed more than 1,730 circuit miles of electric lines since January and expect to trim another 570 miles by year end.
Employee safety also is a priority during the winter. Met-Ed's cold-weather operational procedures are reviewed with linemen, substation electricians, and meter readers in advance of any frigid conditions. Met-Ed personnel often take extra measures to stay warm when working in extreme cold to restore power after an outage. Crews also could be delayed by treacherous driving conditions.
FirstEnergy's utilities also have made it easier for customers to check the progress of service restoration efforts when they experience a power outage. The company's 24/7 Power Center outage maps now display the status of crews restoring service after a power outage. With this enhancement, FirstEnergy utility customers can see when crews have been dispatched, when they are working on a repair, and when additional crews or equipment are needed to complete restoration work.
FirstEnergy utility customers also can subscribe to email and text message alert notifications to receive billing reminders, weather alerts in advance of major storms, and updates on scheduled or extended power outages. Customers can also use two-way text messaging to report outages, request updates on restoration efforts, and make other inquiries about their electric accounts.