West Penn Power is completing work on approximately $21 million on power line and substation projects as part of a targeted 2017 program to reduce the number and duration of power outages experienced by the company's 720,000 customers.
The work involves installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles, rebuilding electric lines, including replacing damaged insulators, poles, cross arms and wire, and installing automated and remote control devices.
The projects are part of West Penn Power's 2016-2020 Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP) approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Ultimately, this special program focuses on distribution infrastructure enhancement projects in the West Penn Power service area, with a total of $88 million to be spent through 2020 on system improvements.
"The additional projects complement the work we already do each year to enhance the reliability of our electric system," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. "This year, we are targeting work on higher-voltage distribution lines that interconnect with multiple substations as a way of limiting outages, along with installing equipment that can be operated remotely to help speed the restoration process."
The scheduled LTIIP projects in the West Penn Power service area in 2017 include:
- Spending approximately $3.7 million to install new electronic circuit breakers or "reclosers" in key substations that can be operated remotely from the company dispatch center. This equipment provides operators the ability to restore power more quickly and efficiently than if a crew was needed to investigate the problem. These devices will be installed on 28 circuits in four substations, including a substation in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County ($960,000, eight circuits); a substation in Kittanning, Armstrong County ($960,000 eight circuits); a substation in Uniontown, Fayette County ($720,000, six circuits); and a substation in Washington, Washington County ($720,000, six circuits). Reclosers open the line when a system irregularity is detected to stop the flow of electricity and then automatically reclose to check if the problem, such a tree branch contacting the line, is still present. The new electronic reclosers can selectively open certain sections of line, which can help limit the number of customers affected by an outage.
- Installing remote-controlled switches on higher-voltage distribution circuits at a cost of about $3.6 million to allow automatic and remote switching to help limit the number of customers affected when an outage occurs. The new controls are engineered to shorten the duration of outages and to allow for large blocks of customers to be more quickly restored. The new controls will be installed at 46 switching locations both in substations and on overhead electric lines throughout West Penn Power's service area.
- Spending approximately $2.7 million to install new fuses, reclosers and wire on about 60 overhead lines, particularly at points where distribution circuits branch into smaller sections. The new equipment automatically opens up when sensing system irregularities to stop the flow of electricity, helping to limit the scope of outages and reduce the duration.
- Rebuilding portions of 56 distribution circuits at a cost of about $2.4 million, including replacing electrical components such as switches, cross arms, transformers, reclosers, capacitors and insulators to help prevent outages caused by equipment issues.
- Spending $2 million to replace damaged insulators, cross arms and wire on higher-voltage lines that feed distribution substations. Proactive work to prevent problems on these lines can help avoid outages affecting numerous customers.
- Replacing underground residential distribution cable with insulated, corrosion-resistant cable to help prevent outages and reduce the time necessary to locate and repair faults beneath the ground. About 2 miles of underground distribution cable will be replaced in Quail Acres in Washington County at a cost of about $480,000. In the Saybrook Village subdivision near Greensburg, about $160,000 will be spent to install more than 1 mile of underground cable and new above-ground junction boxes outfitted with fuses to limit the scope of outages. In the Tyhurst development near Charleroi, a half mile of underground cable will be installed at a cost of about $20,000.
- Replacing batteries in 15 distribution substations throughout West Penn Power's service area at a cost of about $230,000 to provide back-up power for controls and relays during outages.
Installing new arrestors to protect transformers from lightning damage in 29 substations throughout West Penn Power's service area at a cost of $120,000.
The LTIIP work is included in the $235 million in infrastructure projects for 2017 previously announced to help enhance service reliability for customers in West Penn Power's 24-county service area.