With the upcoming hot, humid summer months and the higher electricity demand they bring, Potomac Edison, a FirstEnergy Corp. unit, is completing projects, inspections and equipment maintenance across its western Maryland and Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia service areas to enhance reliability for customers.
Cost-effective helicopter patrols have completed inspections on nearly 1,400 miles of FirstEnergy transmission line circuits located in the Potomac Edison area. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken cross arms, failed insulators, and other hardware problems not visible from the ground. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspection will be addressed.
On the ground, the inspections include using "thermovision" cameras to capture infrared images that can detect potential problems with Potomac Edison substation equipment such as transformers and capacitors. By identifying hot spots, maintenance and repairs can be conducted prior to a power outage occurring.
Other utility work being done by Potomac Edison crews includes inspecting distribution circuits, including transformers, capacitors, reclosers and lightning arrestors to ensure the equipment is operational and the lines are ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the summer, typically due to air conditioning usage.
Tree trimming is another key to preparing our system to meet the rigors of summer operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages. Potomac Edison tree contractors have trimmed about 1,100 circuit miles of electric lines since January and expect to trim another 1,500 miles by year’s end.
In addition to regular inspections and repairs, crews are finishing work on several projects designed to enhance the reliability of Potomac Edison's system in time for the summer. These projects include:
· Installing new equipment at a substation near Stephen's City, Va., to help maintain voltage levels on the regional transmission network, including Charles Town in Jefferson County, W.Va.
· Replacing about 14 miles of conductor between substations near Charles Town, W.Va., and Berryville in Clarke County, Va. Construction crews also are replacing about 40 existing wooden structures as part of the project. The work is expected to increase the electrical capacity of the line and help handle future electrical load growth in the area.
· Upgrading equipment at a substation in the Reid area of Washington County, Md. The project will help enhance service reliability for existing Potomac Edison customers and accommodate future electrical load growth.
A team of Potomac Edison employees also recently conducted a readiness exercise to test the company's restoration process used to repair storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in the wake of severe weather over the last several years.
Potomac Edison serves more than 257,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and more than 137,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.