Ohio Edison, The Illuminating Company Complete Three-Year Grid Modernization Project in Ashtabula CountyPlan filed to build on project’s success through second phase of smart grid technology investments
ASHTABULA, Ohio, Oct. 6, 2022 -- FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE) electric companies Ohio Edison and The Illuminating Company are completing smart grid upgrades across Ashtabula County to help prevent or minimize the length of service disruptions, particularly during severe weather. The work includes installation of new, automated equipment and technology in substations and along power lines serving nearly 18,000 customers in parts of Ashtabula, Austinburg, Andover, Geneva and nearby areas. Upgrades began in 2020 under the company's initial three-year portfolio of grid modernization work.
"Every project is customized and designed to address the particular reliability needs of each community," said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy's Ohio operations. "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 to support different types of energy sources in the years to come."
Utility personnel are finalizing electrical equipment upgrades in four substations in the greater Ashtabula area and modernizing power lines that deliver electric service to customers from those facilities. Thousands of homes and businesses in the area will benefit from the installation of 52 new automated reclosing devices in the substations and along power lines to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions.
These 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 substation or 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 in lieu of sending a crew to investigate.
If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, 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.
Locations for these automated devices were determined based on a review of historical outage patterns across greater Ashtabula to identify the areas that could benefit most from new technology.
Additional power lines that tie together existing circuits are also being constructed to provide more flexibility in restoring service following outages. The new power lines will help reduce the length of power outages and the overall number of customers impacted by switching them to a backup line for faster service restoration.
Lastly, 50 capacitor banks were installed to regulate voltage, helping provide energy savings by reducing the amount of electricity that must be generated and evenly distributing electricity to allow all customers served by a single power line to receive the same flow of safe, reliable power.
Beyond the company's investments in power lines and equipment, Ohio Edison and The Illuminating Company have installed more than 20,000 smart meters for customers in Ashtabula County since 2020. As the latest in metering technology, smart meters enable customers to better track their energy consumption and minimize estimated readings. Smart meters also can be leveraged by customers electing to enroll in programs like time-varying rates, which can provide price incentives to reduce electricity use during high demand periods throughout the day.
FirstEnergy's Ohio utilities, including Ohio Edison and The Illuminating Company, recently filed a plan with the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) that would expand smart grid technology investments. The filing, known as Ohio Grid Mod II, proposes a four-year, $626 million investment plan that builds upon system upgrades completed since the PUCO approved the utilities' Grid Mod I plan in 2019.
In addition to power infrastructure upgrades, the proposed plan also includes several pilot programs that could provide enhanced customer benefits, such as providing residential and non-residential electric vehicle managed charging incentives to help support the adoption of electric vehicles across the company's Ohio service territories. The Grid Mod II Plan is subject to PUCO approval.
The Illuminating Company serves 755,000 customers across Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties. Connect with The Illuminating Company at www.illuminatingcompany.com, on Twitter @IlluminatingCo and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/IlluminatingCo.
FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company's transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy online at www.firstenergycorp.com and on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.
Editor's Note: Photos of FirstEnergy utility crews completing the grid modernization work under the previously approved plan are available for download on Flickr. Video footage/B-Roll of utility crews completing grid modernization work can be viewed and downloaded here.
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