As part of its plan to modernize its electric distribution system in Ohio, The Illuminating Company, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., is completing electrical grid upgrades in eastern Cuyahoga County to limit the frequency and duration of power outages. The work is part of an initial three-year phase of the company's grid modernization plan and includes installation of new, automated equipment and technology in substations and along power lines serving more than 20,000 customers in parts of Solon, Chagrin Falls, Bedford Heights and nearby areas.
"Every project is customized and designed to address the particular reliability needs of each community where work is being done," said Mark Jones, regional president of The Illuminating Company. "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."
Customers will benefit from installation of more than 50 new automated reclosing devices that will help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions. The 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 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 rather than sending a crew to investigate.
If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on the power line, 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 are also being constructed to provide more flexibility in restoring outages due to events such as storms and vehicle accidents. A single power line can serve thousands of customers, which means an outage due to a fallen tree on a power line could affect all customers served by that line. 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, more than 70 capacitor banks are being 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 lower power voltages being fed into their homes or businesses. The work in this area began in 2020 and is on track to be finished in April.
Beyond the infrastructure upgrades underway in the greater Solon area, the company also plans to complete tree-trimming work and equipment inspections this year along nearly 100 circuit miles of power lines in the area to reinforce existing infrastructure and minimize the impact of damages caused by severe weather.