In preparation for winter, the subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp. are completing inspections and conducting equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
Winter's cold temperatures can 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.
"Conducting winter maintenance procedures for our infrastructure, combined with fleet maintenance designed to prepare our vehicles for winter operations, make a difference when the weather turns cold," said Kevin Sestak, vice president of Operations, Ohio Edison. "The steps we take now in advance of potential severe weather conditions helps enhance the service we provide to our customers."
The work includes inspecting heating equipment for substation components, such as capacitor banks, transformers, 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.
Substation electricians also inspect batteries used to power relays that sense faults on the network and motors that automatically operate switches to isolate those problems, helping to prevent service interruptions or limit their size and scope. Crews use special thermal-imaging cameras to detect hot spots invisible to the naked eye on equipment prone to overheating and malfunctioning as customers crank up their heaters to combat the cold.
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. 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 FirstEnergy transmission lines. 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.
In addition, 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. Ohio Edison tree contractors expect to complete trimming along more than 6,000 circuit miles of electric lines in 2017. Illuminating Company tree contractors expect to complete trimming along more than 2,4000 circuit miles of electric lines.
Employee safety also is a priority during the winter. Cold-weather operational procedures are reviewed with linemen, substation electricians, and meter readers in advance of any frigid conditions. FirstEnergy 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.