The Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power) is installing new interior fencing in two Mercer County substations to help deter climbing animals and protect against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages. The fencing – installed inside of a substation around the perimeter of the equipment – keeps the animals out of harm’s way and the electricity safely flowing to customers.
This work is part of Penn Power’s 2016-2020 Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP), approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Installation of the fencing was completed at one substation in early October, and the second will be completed by the end of this year. The company plans to install additional animal deterrent substation fencing at other locations in Mercer and Lawrence counties over the next five years.
“Climbing animals present one of the greatest threats to substation operation and electric service reliability,” said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Penn Power and Ohio Edison. “A single substation outage can cost thousands of dollars in equipment damage and hundreds of man hours to repair as well as causing extended outages for customers served by that circuit. The special fencing was an economical solution to prevent these types of service disruptions in the future.”
Unlike other types of animal traps and deterrents, this special fencing completely prevents climbing animals from accessing the substation equipment and discourages them from trying again. Many climbing animals, like squirrels, have a highly developed memory that enables them to remember locations for food, warmth and shelter. With one brief contact with a fence panel, animals learn that a substation is not a welcoming location to visit and typically avoid protected substations in the future.
This fencing has proven to be successful for Penn Power’s sister utility in Maryland, which has seen a sharp decline in substation outages due to animals.
To determine the best locations for the interior substation fencing, utility personnel reviewed outage patterns across Penn Power’s service area and identified two substations in Hermitage and Sharon that had experienced animal-related equipment damage that caused lengthy power outages. These substations collectively serve 7,500 customers in western Pennsylvania.
A video of utility personnel explaining and installing the interior substation fence can be found in the video clip below.