Pennsylvania Electric Co. (Penelec) is completing work on approximately $14.5 million of electric system projects as part of a targeted 2017 program specifically designed to reduce the number and duration of power outages experienced by the company's 590,000 customers.
The work involves installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles, rebuilding electric lines, including replacing damaged insulators, poles, cross arms and wire, and installing automated and remote control devices.
The projects are part of Penelec's 2016-2020 Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP) approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission. Ultimately, this special program focuses on distribution infrastructure enhancement projects in the Penelec service area, with a total of $70 million being spent through 2020 on system improvements.
"The additional projects are intended to benefit Penelec customers by complementing the work we already do each year to enhance the reliability of our electric system," said Scott Wyman, regional president of Penelec. "We continue working to make our system the best it can be when it comes to limiting the number and duration of outages our customers experience."
The LTIIP projects slated for completion this year in the Penelec service area include:
- Replacing porcelain protective switches on poles and wires with new polymer devices at a cost of about $1.2 million. The switches – known as "cutouts" – automatically open up when a system irregularity is detected, serving to protect the electrical equipment and limit the number of customers affected by an outage. In 2017, protective switches will be replaced on 80 circuits primarily in Dubois, Erie, Oil City and Towanda.
- Spending approximately $3 million to replace circuit breakers and insulators in 30 substations across the Penelec footprint.
- Spending nearly $1 million to upgrade equipment and to replace or refurbish electrical vaults in Penelec's three underground networks in Erie, Altoona, Johnstown. This work also will include transformer replacements along with installing equipment designed to regulate electrical current.
- Installing radio-controlled switches on electric circuits at a cost of about $3.5 million. These devices can be operated remotely from the company dispatch center, allowing operators the ability to restore power more quickly and efficiently than if a crew was needed to investigate the situation. Some areas where the new switches are being installed include Erie, Altoona, Oil City, Warren and Towanda.
In 2018, Penelec is expected to spend an additional $16 million on similar projects.