Potomac Edison to spend $135 million on power grid improvements

Projects include transmission enhancements to reinforce the system and support economic growth, constructing new distribution circuits, and inspecting and replacing utility poles and underground cables

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FirstEnergy Corp. expects to invest about $135 million in 2017 on distribution and transmission infrastructure projects to help enhance service reliability for its customers in Potomac Edison's service area in western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

Major projects scheduled for 2017 include transmission enhancements to reinforce the system and support economic growth, constructing new distribution circuits, and inspecting and replacing utility poles and underground cables.

"These infrastructure enhancements are necessary to serve the influx of new residents and businesses to our Potomac Edison service territory," said James A. Sears, Jr., vice president of Potomac Edison. "At the same time, we also are working on projects designed to help enhance the day-to-day service we provide our customers, such as replacing older underground cables and improving existing overhead facilities."

FirstEnergy projects planned in the Potomac Edison footprint in 2017 include:

· Ongoing work to provide electrical service to the new Procter & Gamble consumer products manufacturing plant under construction in Berkeley County near Martinsburg, W.Va. The $8 million project includes a new distribution substation, upgrades to other nearby substations, and several power lines. About $4.7 million is expected to be spent on work this year, with the project scheduled for completion in 2018.

· Completing work on a new $5 million power line and substation project under construction in Hardy County, W.Va., along State Route 259 that will enhance service reliability for about 2,200 customers in the Baker and Mathias areas. The project will divide the existing 270-mile long circuit – the longest in Potomac Edison's service area – into three shorter segments and also improve service to a nearby compressor station for a major natural gas supply pipeline.

· Building a distribution substation in the Foxville area in Frederick County, Md., and constructing five miles of new distribution circuit that will enhance electric service reliability for about 1,200 customers in the Myersville and Wolfsville area. Construction of the $4 million project will start in 2017.

· Constructing a new $3 million distribution substation for the Jefferson Tech Park near Frederick, Md., to provide electric service capacity for more than 2 million square feet of commercial development. Work on the project is expected to start in 2017 and be completed in 2018.

· Building a new $2 million distribution substation in Montgomery County to serve residential and retail customers in the new Cabin Branch development in Clarksburg, Md. The substation will provide needed service capacity for about 3,500 homes and 1.4 million square feet of retail space. The work is scheduled to begin in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2018.

· Replacing two transformers at a distribution substation near Mt. Airy, Md., at a cost of about $2.5 million to meet increased demand for electricity in the eastern edge of Potomac Edison's service area. The project should be completed in mid-2017 and will enhance service reliability for more than 3,400 customers, including residents of the new Preserve at Harvest Ridge housing development.

· Rebuilding a seven-mile transmission line connecting a substation near White Post, Va., to a substation near Front Royal, Va., at a cost of about $5.4 million. The project includes replacing about 50 wooden structures with new wooden structures, and replacing the wire with a larger diameter conductor to increase the capacity of the line. Construction started in January, with the project scheduled to be completed and in service by early June. This transmission system upgrade should enhance the regional grid and enhance service reliability for customers of two interconnected electric cooperatives in Virginia.

· Installing specialized voltage-regulating equipment in a transmission substation in Montgomery County, Md., near Damascus to support voltage on the regional transmission system. Started in February, the project also includes installation of a new breaker, air switches and bus work at a cost of about $460,000. The project is scheduled to be completed and in service by June 1, benefitting electric service for nearly 80,000 Potomac Edison customers in Frederick, Carroll and Montgomery counties.

· Upgrading equipment on about 266 distribution circuits throughout Potomac Edison's service area at an estimated cost of nearly $3 million. The enhancements – installing new wire, cable and fuses – are expected to reinforce the electrical system and enhance reliability for nearly 400,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia.

· Replacing underground distribution cables with new equipment. Work totaling more than $2.7 million is continuing in all areas of the service territory, with a focus in Frederick, Montgomery and Washington counties in Maryland.

· Spending $1.1 million to inspect and proactively replace or repair distribution and sub-transmission utility poles in the Potomac Edison service area. Nearly 24,000 utility poles will be inspected in 2017, with about 400 expected to be replaced or restored.

About $3 million of the budgeted total will be for transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Co. (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.

In 2016, FirstEnergy spent about $117 million in the Potomac Edison area on hundreds of large and small transmission and distribution projects, including replacing wire on transmission lines, upgrading equipment on distribution circuits, replacing equipment in substations, and inspecting and replacing poles, as needed.

Potomac Edison, a unit of FirstEnergy Corp., serves about 257,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and 137,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.

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