Penn Power, a FirstEnergy Corp. electric company, is upgrading and expanding its power system in Butler County, Pennsylvania, to support the future energy demands of the area's rapidly growing population and help prevent lengthy service disruptions during severe weather. Work underway includes construction of a new 8000-square-foot distribution substation and installation of automated equipment and technology in substations and along power lines serving more than 20,000 customers in parts of Cranberry, Mars, Evans City, Jackson Township and nearby areas.
"This is an exciting time for economic development in our region as more people realize Butler County is a great place to live and work," said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy's Pennsylvania operations. "We're proud to help advance development in the region while strengthening our system to meet the growing demand for safe and reliable power for many years to come."
As part of the construction process, utility personnel recently started foundation work at the new substation site in Cranberry Township and will begin erecting steel structures at the facility in the spring. The project includes construction of a short, high-voltage power line to connect the new substation with an existing power line located nearby. Such ties offer a backup power feed that will help keep the lights on for customers if wires or equipment on their regular line are damaged or need to be taken out of service. The new substation is expected to be completed and operational by the end of this year.
Once the new facility is in use, hundreds of homes and businesses in the area will benefit from the installation of new automated reclosing devices in the substation and along power lines that are fed from the facility that will help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions.
The electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergizing a substation or power line within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing to customers. This technology is safer and more efficient because it often allows utility personnel to automatically restore service to customers in lieu of sending a crew to investigate.
If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, it will isolate the outage to that area to 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.
This work builds upon vast electric system upgrades that were completed over the past two years across Penn Power's service area. Projects include the completion of a new distribution substation in North Beaver Township, Lawrence County, installation of more than 300 automated reclosing devices and the addition of interior fencing in five substations to help deter climbing animals and protect against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages.
It is part of Penn Power's second phase Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric service for customers. The company's investments to upgrade the local energy grid have successfully reduced the number and length of outages customers experience by 20% in areas where work has been completed since 2016.