FirstEnergy Corp.'s Ohio utilities have filed a plan at the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) aimed at reducing the frequency and duration of power outages by redesigning and modernizing portions of their distribution system.
The plan outlines a three-year, $450 million investment in projects that will create a stronger distribution system serving customers of Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating and Toledo Edison. The projects will help restore power faster, strengthen the system against adverse weather conditions, and enhance system performance by giving operators the ability to monitor and react to issues on the grid in real time.
The proposed projects will particularly focus on redesigning certain distribution lines across FirstEnergy's Ohio footprint that have experienced power outages in the past. On average, FirstEnergy expects this work could reduce outages under normal conditions by as much as 30 percent or more, and speed restoration time by up to 25 percent on power lines targeted in the plan.
"Portions of our system were originally designed to serve hundreds of customers on single, standalone lines, meaning a single outage could leave many customers without power until repairs are made," said Steve Strah, President, FirstEnergy Utilities. "Our plan would allow us to isolate damage to a confined area and allow other customers along the line to be quickly restored by rerouting power from nearby lines. These investments will help us meet our customers' high expectations by reducing outages and restoring power faster across our Ohio footprint."
Beyond the immediate benefits to customers, the work is needed to support future integration of new, smart technologies as well as customer-driven applications such as plug-in electric vehicles and distributed energy resources. Projects include:
Circuit ties – Help prevent or shorten outages by tying adjacent lines together and creating multiple paths for power to flow to customers.
Reconductoring – Enhance reliability by installing larger wires that support greater power flows from multiple sources and increase a line's ability to withstand adverse weather.
Reclosers – Allow grid operators to isolate an outage to the immediate area where damage occurs, which decreases the number of customers affected by an outage by allowing power lines to be divided into smaller sections.
Data Acquisition Systems – Incorporate software that allows grid operators to remotely monitor and react to power grid conditions in real-time to help prevent outages and restore power faster.
FirstEnergy estimates that the cost of these projects would comprise about two percent of the typical residential customer's monthly bill.