Over the next several weeks, PECO will have dedicated crews working in Chester County, Pennsylvania to install reclosers, pole-top electronic switch devices that can reduce customer exposure to extended power outages. Nearly 50,000 customers will benefit from the $2 million investment in these automated, computer-controlled "smart" switches. Each recloser costs between $50,000 and $65,000 for the equipment and installation and takes five days to install.
By end of the year, the company will have installed reclosers on 36 more electric distribution circuits in Chester County, which were selected based on the number of customers served by each and their recent outage history. PECO has more than 1,200 reclosers on its electric distribution system across the Greater Philadelphia region. The company estimates reclosers prevent outages for more than 100,000 customers each year.
"We are making a concerted effort to improve electric service reliability for customers in the local area. These devices are sophisticated and proven effective, and PECO feels they will make a positive impact on service quality for the area," said Tim Shannon, PECO engineering manager for Delaware and Chester counties.
The reclosers will break up the length of the circuit and reduce the number of customers affected by problems that cause outages, such as a fallen tree, lightning strike or vehicle accident. Reclosers have built-in intelligence to sense when a circuit experiences a fault and activates automatically, most often keeping the lights on for customers and avoiding the need for a utility crew to respond for repairs. The devices improve utility performance, save operating costs, and help to satisfy customers, said Shannon.
Reclosers are being installed by PECO in-house crews on circuits fed from the company's Bradford, Clay, Concord, Cochranville, Eagle, Goshen, Jennersville, Lenape, Middletown, Newlinville, Planebrook, and Tredyffrin substations, reaching out to most areas of the county.
The reclosers are supplied by Wisconsin-based Cooper Power Systems. "Today's recloser solutions provide advanced protection and controls to maximize system reliability," said Mike Stoessl, president, Cooper Power Systems. "As the originator of the automatic circuit recloser, Cooper Power Systems is delighted to work with PECO on this important reliability improvement effort."
The name "recloser" comes from how the device operates. When an electrical fault occurs, a typical circuit breaker or fuse would instantly trip open to stop the flow of electricity and a utility troubleman or lineman would need to replace or manually close the breaker. A utility's circuit recloser automatically closes and if the fallen tree limb clears the aerial line, for example, or if whatever disturbance occurred no longer is present, the device stays closed and power flows again uninterrupted for local customers.