FirstEnergy Corp. invested approximately $168 million in 2014 in the Potomac Edison service area on reliability infrastructure projects and other work, including trimming trees to maintain proper clearances along about 2,200 miles of power lines.
About $45 million of the total has been spent on transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission company.
"These projects, along with trimming trees, help us enhance day-to-day service reliability for our customers along with maintaining our system's capability to handle future load growth," said James A. Sears, Jr., president of FirstEnergy's Maryland Operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "The work is making a difference. As a result of tree trimming in recent years, outages from limbs and trees falling into our lines have decreased. Between 2011 and 2014, our trimming program helped reduce by about 35 percent the number of Potomac Edison customers affected by a tree-related service interruption."
Some of the key FirstEnergy projects in Potomac Edison's service area in 2014 include:
- Finishing an $18 million project to rebuild a major 500-kilovolt transmission line in Frederick County. The upgrade increases the line's capacity by more than 60 percent to enhance service reliability for existing customers and accommodate future growth in Maryland and West Virginia. As part of the project, crews replaced existing structures with 14 new steel towers.
- Trimming trees to maintain proper clearances along about 2,200 miles of power lines in Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia at a cost of about $25 million.
- Installing a new control building and emergency generator at a large substation in Frederick County at a cost of more than $4 million.
- Completing a $58 million project to expand a large substation near Winchester, Va. The upgrade is designed to help enhance service reliability for existing customers and accommodate future growth in Maryland, West Virginia and Virginia.
- Upgrading equipment on about 90 distribution circuits at a cost of nearly $4 million. The enhancements – installing new wire, cable and fuses and replacing other equipment – are designed to enhance service reliability for about 65,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia.
- Replacing about 20 miles of underground distribution cable at a cost of more than $4.5 million. Crews worked on 60 projects throughout the service area, including major projects in West Frederick and Damascus in Maryland and Shepherdstown and Lost River in West Virginia.
- Repairing and replacing 1,200 wood utility poles at a cost of about $2 million. Crews inspected 23,000 of more than 400,000 wood poles throughout the service area. Poles were inspected in and around Cumberland, Falling Waters, Frederick, Martinsburg, Mt. Airy, Oakland and Williamsport.
- Installing new equipment at a cost of about $2.8 million to increase capacity of a substation in Montgomery County, Md. to accommodate accelerated growth in the Germantown and Clarksburg areas.
- Installing new equipment at a substation in Berkeley County, W. Va., at a cost of $1.7 million to allow for anticipated load growth and help enhance reliability for existing customers in the Tabler and Inwood areas.
Planning also continues for additional projects that are expected to be completed in 2015, including new substations, transmission lines and circuit upgrades.
In 2014, Potomac Edison made it easier for customers to check the progress of service restoration efforts when they experience a power outage. The company's 24/7 Power Center outage maps now display the status of crews restoring service after a power outage. With this enhancement, Potomac Edison customers can see when crews have been dispatched, when they are working on a repair, and when additional crews or equipment are needed to complete restoration work.
Potomac Edison customers also can subscribe to email and text message alert notifications to receive billing reminders, weather alerts in advance of major storms, and updates on scheduled or extended power outages. Customers can also use two-way text messaging to report outages, request updates on restoration efforts, and make other inquiries about their electric accounts.
Potomac Edison serves about 250,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and 132,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.