Pennsylvania Electric Co. is completing work on approximately $11 million of electric system projects as part of its 2016 Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan, a program specifically designed to reduce the number and duration of potential power outages experienced by the company's 600,000 customers.
The projects include installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles, replacing or rehabilitating electric lines, adding other special equipment, and installing automated and remote control devices.
"These projects benefit customers by complementing the work we already do each year to enhance the reliability of our electric system," said Scott Wyman, regional president of Penelec. "Our goal is to make our system the best it can be when it comes to limiting the number of outages our customers experience."
Penelec's Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan was approved earlier this year by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Ultimately, this five-year program will result in an additional $56 million being spent in the Penelec area through 2020 on targeted distribution infrastructure enhancement projects to enhance service reliability.
Projects completed this year in the Penelec service area include:
- Replaced about 2,600 porcelain protective switches on poles and wires with new polymer devices at a cost of about $3 million. The switches – known as "cutouts" – automatically open up when a system irregularity is detected, serving to protect the electrical equipment and limit the number of customers affected by an outage. In 2016, protective switches were replaced on 68 circuits primarily in Dubois, Erie, Oil City and Towanda.
- Added new connection points where circuits can be tied together, along with installing new sectionalizing devices, such as fuses and automated switches, to help limit the number of customers affected when an outage occurs. The work cost approximately $1.2 million and is designed to improve reliability for approximately 1,000 Penelec customers in Crawford County. In addition, this work provides another feed, or connection point, for 2,300 customers of the Northwest Rural Electric Cooperative.
- Installed radio-controlled switches on electric circuits at a cost of about $1.8 million. These devices can be operated remotely from the company dispatch center, allowing operators the ability to restore power more quickly and efficiently than if a crew was needed to investigate the situation. Some of the 16 locations where this work has occurred, or is occurring, include Altoona, Dubois, Erie, Johnstown, Lewistown, Oil City and Towanda.
- Completed two major line upgrade projects in the Clearfield/Phillipsburg areas. Eight additional line projects were completed in the Oil City area, including installing new wire and other equipment, as needed, at a cost of approximately $1.1 million.
- Replacing overhead wire, automated reclosing devices, transformers, fuses, and animal guards to help enhance overall customer service and reliability. This work continues on 18 circuits in Erie, Towanda, Warren, Dubois and Johnstown and is expected to cost approximately $794,000 in 2016.
In 2017, Penelec is expected to spend an additional $11 million on similar Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan projects.