Toledo Edison, a FirstEnergy Corp. electric company, is wrapping up smart grid upgrades in Lucas County to help prevent or minimize the length of service disruptions, particularly during severe weather. The work includes installation of new, automated equipment and technology in substations and power lines serving more than 59,000 customers in parts of Toledo, Holland, Maumee and nearby areas. Upgrades began in 2020 under the company's initial three-year portfolio of grid modernization work and is on track to be completed this summer.
"Every project is customized and designed to address the particular reliability needs of each community," said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy's Ohio operations. "These upgrades will allow us to restore service to our customers faster following severe weather events as well as pave the way for a more robust power system that has advanced technology to support different types of energy sources in the years to come."
Utility personnel are finalizing electrical equipment upgrades in seven substations in the greater Toledo area and modernizing 31 power lines that deliver electric service to customers from those facilities. Thousands of homes and businesses in the area will benefit from the installation of 134 new automated reclosing devices in the substations and along power lines to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions.
These 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 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.
Additional power lines that tie together existing circuits are also being constructed to provide more flexibility in restoring service following outages. The new power lines will help reduce the length and overall number of customers impacted during an outage by switching them to a backup line for faster service restoration.
Lastly, nearly 140 capacitor banks were installed to help ensure all customers served by a single power line receive the same flow of safe, reliable power by evenly distributing electricity down the line. These devices are expected to reduce energy usage for customers served near the beginning of a power line because they will benefit from optimized power voltages being fed into their homes or businesses.
Beyond the company's investments in power lines and equipment, Toledo Edison has installed nearly 130,000 smart meters for customers in Lucas County since 2020. As the latest in metering technology, smart meters enable customers to better track their energy consumption and minimize estimated readings. Smart meters also can be leveraged by customers electing to enroll in programs like time-varying rates, which can provide price incentives to reduce electricity use during high demand periods throughout the day.
FirstEnergy's Ohio utilities, including Toledo Edison, recently filed a plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that would expand smart grid technology investments. The filing, known as Ohio Grid Mod II, proposes a four-year, US$ 626 million investment plan that builds upon system upgrades completed since the PUCO approved the utilities' Grid Mod I plan in 2019.
"The projects we've completed under the first phase of our grid modernization plan have proven to be successful in reducing many power interruptions," said Shuttleworth. "This has laid the foundation for us to further enhance service reliability across our entire service area in Ohio, including northwest Ohio."
In addition to power infrastructure upgrades, the proposed plan also includes several pilot programs that could provide enhanced customer benefits, such as installing automated devices in neighborhoods throughout Toledo Edison's service area that are prone to animal- or tree-related outages, implementing programs designed to support the adoption of electric vehicles (EV) and installing a battery energy storage system designed to support increased EV charging load along the Ohio Turnpike.