American Transmission Systems, Inc., a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., is using helicopters and ground crews to replace more than 550 insulators and attachments along a 35-mile section of a transmission line that runs through Mahoning, Columbiana and Jefferson counties in northeast Ohio. The highly visible work will help ensure the regional electric grid remains reliable and resilient. The 138-kilovolt transmission line runs south from a substation in Boardman Township to a substation in Stratton and traverses Beaver, Fairfield, Elkrun, Madison, Yellow Creek and Saline townships.
Crews from Ohio Edison, another FirstEnergy subsidiary, will perform a 10-mile portion of the insulator replacement work between Boardman Township and the Columbiana County line, while the balance of the replacements will be handled by a contractor that carries line workers to the top of the transmission towers via helicopter. The line workers will be harnessed and lowered down onto each structure to install the new insulators and attachments. The helicopter will also lower the new materials for the assembly and carry the old materials away.
This aerial method is more efficient than deploying ground crews to each structure, which would require the creation of access roads for large trucks and equipment. ATSI began replacing the insulators in July and expects to complete the replacements along the corridor this fall. The transmission line has been deenergized until the work is complete but is not disrupting service to customers, who are being served by an alternate power feed.
“By installing new, upgraded equipment along this high-voltage line, we can help prevent potential power outages and ensure that our transmission system continues to serve customers safely and reliably in the future,” said Carl Bridenbaugh, FirstEnergy's vice president of Transmission.
The project is part of Energizing the Future, a multi-year initiative designed to upgrade FirstEnergy's transmission system with advanced equipment and technologies that will reinforce the power grid and help reduce the frequency and duration of customer outages. Since 2014, FirstEnergy has upgraded or replaced existing power lines, incorporated smart technology into the grid and upgraded dozens of substations with new equipment and enhanced security features. Through 2022, FirstEnergy had invested more than $10 billion in the Energizing the Future initiative.