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Proactive Aerial Inspections of High-Voltage Power Lines Underway in Toledo Area

Feb. 15, 2022
FirstEnergy transmission subsidiary completing work to help prevent power outages, benefitting customers in Toledo and beyond.

Proactive aerial inspections along nearly 235 miles of 345-kV transmission lines are currently being completed throughout the Toledo area by American Transmission Systems Incorporated, a FirstEnergy Corp. transmission subsidiary.

Completed every four years using a helicopter with an attached high-resolution camera, these comprehensive visual patrols help prevent future power outages by detecting early-stage equipment issues within transmission substations and on high-voltage power lines that cannot be observed from the ground.

The transmission system is a vital part of the power grid, channeling high-voltage power from generation sources to local lines serving towns and communities, including the service territory of FirstEnergy's Toledo Edison utility. Toledo Edison's 315,000 customers in northwest Ohio will be among those who benefit from the work.

"The transmission system is the first line of defense in preventing power outages because it supplies the electricity that flows into substations and along power lines to every single one of our customers," said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy's Ohio operations. "Think of the power system like a sprinkler. The garden hose that supplies water is a transmission line and the sprinkler is the substation. Each stream of water coming out of the sprinkler hits different parts of the lawn, just like individual power lines feed electricity to various neighborhoods."

The inspections are performed at low-flying patrol speeds — around 5 mph — giving the inspector on board a bird's-eye, top-to-bottom view of each electrical structure and the wire spans between them. The helicopter is equipped with a high-resolution camera to take photos of hardware that may need to be repaired or replaced.

Inspectors are on the lookout for equipment issues, such as broken crossarms, loose or missing metal fasteners, chipped insulators, bent lattice steel and damaged wire. Storms, exposure to weather and age can cause such conditions. The inspections also help identify overgrown trees, broken poles or birds nesting on electrical equipment. Findings are logged and issues will be prioritized and addressed to help ensure the continued reliable operation of the regional transmission system.

"Helicopters provide a view of electrical equipment that we can't get from the ground, allowing inspection of dozens of miles of power lines in a single day," said Shuttleworth. "However, on-the-ground inspections are still necessary and underway to ensure our neighborhood power lines and equipment are ready to meet the high demand for electricity during extreme weather in the winter and summer seasons."

The helicopter conducting the inspections is a blue and white Bell 407 with a registration number of N707NA in red paint. The aircraft is owned by North American Helicopter and will operate as weather conditions permit over the next three weeks.

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