Penn Power Wraps Up Projects to Strengthen Electric System Ahead of WinterInspections and Maintenance Also Help Enhance Service Reliability for Customers
NEW CASTLE, Pa., Nov. 12, 2020 -- As winter approaches, the Pennsylvania Power Company (Penn Power), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), is wrapping up the installation of new interior fencing in three substations to help deter climbing animals that often seek food, shelter and warmth during the cold-weather months, as well as protect against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages.
This work builds upon the company's previous system upgrades that have eliminated animal-related power outages in two Mercer County substations where the fence applications were installed last year. The fencing – installed inside of a substation around the perimeter of the equipment – keeps the animals out of harm's way and the electricity safely flowing to customers.
"Climbing animals present a threat to substation operation and electric service reliability," said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Penn Power and Ohio Edison. "We are pleased to have experienced tremendous success with the interior fencing we installed last year, and we anticipate similar results with the new applications to help keep the power flowing safely and reliably to our customers this winter."
The work is part of Penn Power's second phase Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric service for customers. Installation of the fencing was completed at a Mercer County substation in September and a Butler County substation in November. The remaining application will be installed at a Lawrence County substation by the end of this year.
Unlike other types of animal traps and deterrents, this special fencing completely prevents climbing animals from accessing the substation equipment and discourages them from trying again. Many climbing animals, like squirrels, have a highly developed memory that enables them to remember locations for food, warmth and shelter. With one brief contact with a fence panel, animals learn that a substation is not a welcoming location to visit and typically avoid protected substations in the future.
"A single substation outage can cost thousands of dollars in equipment damage and hundreds of man hours to repair as well as cause extended outages for customers served by that circuit," said Shuttleworth. "The special fencing was an economical solution to prevent these types of service disruptions in the future."
To determine the best locations for the interior substation fencing, utility personnel reviewed outage patterns across Penn Power's service area and identified substations in Mercer, Cranberry and New Castle that had experienced animal-related equipment damage that caused lengthy power outages. These substations collectively serve nearly 15,000 customers in western Pennsylvania.
In preparation for winter, utility personnel also have completed inspections and conducted equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
The work includes the use of special thermal-imaging cameras to detect hot spots, or weak points, invisible to the naked eye on electrical equipment prone to overheating and malfunctioning as customers crank up their heaters to combat the cold. Substation electricians also inspected batteries used to power relays that sense faults on the network and motors that automatically operate switches to isolate those problems, helping to prevent service interruptions or limit their size and scope.
Penn Power serves more than 160,000 customers in all or parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence and Mercer counties in western Pennsylvania. Follow Penn Power on Twitter @Penn_Power, on Facebook at www.facebook.com/PennPower, and online at www.pennpower.com.
FirstEnergy is dedicated to 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 24,500 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 Penn Power crews installing an interior substation fence are available for download on Flickr. A video of utility personnel installing the fence application and explaining the work can be found on the company's YouTube channel.
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