FirstEnergy Corp. is seeking permits to build the Center for Advanced Energy Technology, an 88,000 square-foot facility in Akron, Ohio, dedicated to evaluating, testing and training staff on new, digital grid technologies that enhance the company's ability to serve customers.
The Center will support FirstEnergy's efforts to modernize the electric grid across its six-state territory. It will provide engineers and other technicians with a hands-on environment for upgrading and maintaining the power grid by simulating real-world conditions on the electric transmission system.
Approximately 20-25 FirstEnergy employees will be assigned to staff the new facility, which will provide classroom space for training up to 50 people on new grid technologies, including digital relay devices that can remotely pinpoint the location of an equipment failure. The facility will also be used for evaluating and testing equipment to ensure that it complies with the latest industry standards, including cybersecurity.
"The Center will directly support FirstEnergy's efforts to design and build a smarter energy infrastructure," said Carl Bridenbaugh, vice president, Transmission. "Across our system, we're replacing older, mechanical devices with new digital devices that can be remotely monitored and can react to real-time issues on the electric grid. Having a facility where we can evaluate and test these technologies under real-world conditions will help us keep power flowing to our customers around the clock."
The facility will cost approximately $37 million and will be located next to FirstEnergy's existing West Akron campus. The company will seek the necessary permits from the city to build the Center and expects to break ground for the facility next spring.
FirstEnergy expects to submit this project to be considered for the U.S. Green Building Council's Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. LEED is an internationally recognized third-party green building certification system that recognizes buildings that have met the highest possible green building standards and verifies a project's level of environmental responsibility and ability to provide occupants with a healthy place to live and work.
The Center will support Energizing the Future, a multi-year investment initiative aimed at upgrading FirstEnergy's transmission facilities with advanced equipment and technologies that will reinforce the power grid and help reduce the frequency and duration of customer outages. Since 2014, FirstEnergy has upgraded or replaced existing transmission lines, incorporated new, smart technology into the grid, and outfitted dozens of substations with new equipment and enhanced security features. These upgrades are producing reliability improvements across the company's transmission system.