In preparation for winter, Pennsylvania Electric Co. is completing inspections and conducting equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
Winter's 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 for our infrastructure, combined with fleet maintenance designed to prepare our vehicles for winter weather, make a difference when the weather turns cold," said Scott Wyman, regional president of Penelec. "Preparing now for potential severe weather conditions helps enhance the service we provide to our customers."
The work includes inspecting heating equipment for substation components, such as 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.
Tree trimming throughout the year helps meet the rigors of winter operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages. Penelec tree contractors have trimmed more than 3,900 circuit miles of electric lines since January and expect to trim another 700 miles by year end.
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. In addition, snow removal equipment is being checked. The plows are 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 2,500 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the Penelec 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.
Employee safety also is a priority during the winter. Penelec's cold-weather operational procedures are reviewed with linemen, substation electricians, and meter readers in advance of any frigid conditions. Penelec 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. This information is also provided through the companies' web-based outage information, and text messaging and alert services.
FirstEnergy 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.