The Pennsylvania Power Co. (Penn Power), one of 10 electric company subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp., serves more than 160,000 customers across western Pennsylvania, and many of those customers live in rural or tree-filled areas that are more likely to experience outages caused by tree and animal contacts.
To minimize the leading cause of service interruptions — tree branches interfering with power lines — Penn Power is investing in its tree trimming program to maintain its electric system and enhance service reliability. Case in point: In 2019, Penn Power will spend nearly $9 million to trim trees along more than 1,100 miles of electric lines across its service area.
To further prevent outages, Penn Power’s reliability engineers explored the latest technology and equipment in the industry. Beyond its proactive vegetation management program, the utility also opted to invest in a new automated recloser device called the TripSaver II from S&C Electric Co. to address some of the reliability challenges experienced across the service area.
"TripSavers allow us to automatically restore service to customers rather than sending a crew to investigate, which is especially helpful in rural areas," said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Ohio Edison and Penn Power. "This automated technology is safer and saves time and money."
Installing the Devices
To determine the best locations for these devices, Penn Power’s personnel reviewed outage patterns across its service area and identified outage-prone areas that would benefit from a TripSaver.
In April, line workers began installing 120 TripSavers on local neighborhood power lines branching from the main power line serving an area. The TripSaver devices are currently being installed on single-phase laterals that will benefit from enhanced upstream protection in three counties in rural western Pennsylvania.
The installation process is similar to installing any other type of electric equipment on a pole because it can be done using a three-person line crew and a bucket truck. To ensure that the devices were installed safely and correctly, an S&C Electric Co. representative visited each of the Penn Power service centers to provide hands-on training with the line workers and utility personnel. The training session included walking the line workers through several trouble scenarios they might experience in the field with a TripSaver device.
When there is a temporary issue on the neighborhood line, such as a tree limb blowing into the line, the TripSaver responds in seconds. The device can sense when the branch is gone and automatically reenergize the line to prevent an extended outage in the neighborhood. It also safely isolates the outage from the main power line, helping to avoid outages to customers across a larger area.
Because the TripSaver works like a residential circuit breaker, customers will experience fewer and shorter outages. In addition, the device has the added benefit of automatically reenergizing a power line within seconds to keep power safely flowing to customers.
If the TripSaver senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on the power line, it will isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected customers. The device’s smart technology will quickly pinpoint the location of the fault and help utility personnel better understand the cause of the outage to help speed restoration.
FirstEnergy employees pride themselves on finding new ways to enhance electric service reliability so they can safely provide the power customers depend on each day.
Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., is one of 10 of the company’s electric companies in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and West Virginia. Penn Power plans to install all 120 of its devices by late fall of this year.
A few other FirstEnergy companies also have installed — and secured plans to install — TripSaver devices across their service territories.
This year, Penn Power’s sister utility, West Penn Power, has installed nearly a dozen TripSaver devices in central Pennsylvania to limit the number and length of power outages due to animal or tree contacts. Its other sister utility, Jersey Central Power & Light (JCP&L), has plans to install around 1,700 TripSavers on nearly 310 circuits across its New Jersey service area by the end of 2020. This work is part of JCP&L’s $97 million "JCP&L Reliability Plus" plan, which includes targeted investments above and beyond its regular annual investments to enhance service reliability and resiliency.
The special focus of this program is to limit damage during severe weather events. "JCP&L Reliability Plus" was created following a detailed analysis of JCP&L’s distribution system, as well as lessons learned from the restoration efforts following recent severe weather events, such as the back-to-back nor’easters in March 2018.
The enhancements implemented through this program will help reduce the frequency of power outages, address tree damage during severe weather events, provide more flexibility for operating the system and help modernize the electric grid for JCP&L’s more than one million customers.
In the future, FirstEnergy plans to continue to look for opportunities to use the TripSaver technology across its entire six-state footprint to best determine the locations to add these devices.
By investing in these devices, FirstEnergy is not only reducing the frequency and duration of power outages, but also enhancing electric service reliability for its customers and helping to build a smarter and stronger grid.
Editor’s Note: To view a YouTube video of utility personnel explaining and installing a TripSaver device, visit here.
For more information:
FirstEnergy Corporation | www.firstenergycorp.com
Penn Power | www.pennpower.com
S&C Electric Co. | www.sandc.com