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Penelec Strengthens Underground Network to Minimize Service Disruptions

July 10, 2023
FirstEnergy subsidiary starts project to enhance electric service reliability and replace key components.

FirstEnergy subsidiary Penelec has started a significant project in downtown Johnstown, Cambria County, aimed at enhancing the reliability of its underground electrical network and reducing service disruptions. The project involves the replacement of crucial sections of one of the primary underground cables responsible for delivering electricity to around 900 customer locations, including prominent establishments like the Cambria County War Memorial, Conemaugh Medical Center, city and county offices, and senior living high-rises.

To further strengthen the network, Penelec is also installing new underground transformers and protective devices. These advanced systems are designed to swiftly detect and isolate damages, rerouting electricity to nearby cables in order to prevent or minimize power interruptions.

Scheduled for 2023, the project encompasses the replacement of other key network components essential for delivering reliable electric service to downtown customers.

Recently, excavation work commenced near Sargents Stadium at the Point to install underground ductwork that will house a main downtown electrical circuit composed of three side-by-side power lines running beneath various streets, including Broad, Johns, Locust, Walnut, Main, and Market. This measure aims to enhance the circuit’s durability against external factors such as dirt, rocks, lightning, water, and accidental dig-ins. The excavation work was completed prior to the Thunder in the Valley motorcycle rally in late June, with the new cable expected to be in place and operational by the upcoming autumn.

In addition, crews have recently replaced a transformer and protective device, with plans to replace six more vital pieces of equipment, including two transformers, three protective devices, and a switch, during the summer and fall. These equipment replacements, housed in underground concrete vaults throughout the city, may require road closures under the supervision of flaggers.

The replacement of the electrical circuit aligns with Penelec’s Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), a $200 million initiative aimed at expediting investments in the electric distribution system over five years to ensure sustained service reliability for customers. However, the replacement of transformers, protective devices, and the switch falls outside the scope of the LTIIP work.

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