GREENSBURG, Pa., Nov. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The leaves have fallen, and West Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), is preparing for winter weather by completing inspections and conducting maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
Winter's cold temperatures produce increased demand for electricity, and heavy snow and wind have the potential to cause damage to poles, wires and substations, requiring crews to make repairs in difficult conditions. Completing inspections and maintenance of equipment now can help to enhance system reliability when the snow begins to fly.
"Preparing our infrastructure for winter operation helps to enhance the reliability of our system," said David W. McDonald, regional president of West Penn Power. "Coupled with winter maintenance for our vehicles and snow removal equipment, these efforts help us to provide more reliable service to our customers."
The pre-winter work includes inspecting heating equipment for substation components including capacitor banks, transformers and oil- and gas-filled circuit breakers. Some substations also have buildings that house remote-controlled relay equipment. These structures will be winterized and have their heating systems checked.
Company bucket trucks and other vehicles also are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season. Tires are inspected each fall and replaced, if necessary, before winter. Air braking systems also are inspected, as moisture in the system can freeze and cause reduced braking efficiency. The diesel fuel used in company vehicles contains a special winter additive that prevents the fuel from gelling in the cold. Trucks are also outfitted with anti-skid materials like sand and salt, and tire chains are inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
In addition, snow removal equipment is being checked, including plows and blowers used to help crews gain access to substations and to clear the work areas and sidewalks at company service garages and other facilities.
Helicopter patrols also are completing inspections on about 1,700 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the West Penn Power service 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 immediately.
Tree trimming is another key to preparing our system to meet the rigors of winter operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages. West Penn Power tree contractors have trimmed more than 4,000 circuit miles of electric lines since January.
Employee safety also is a priority during the winter. West Penn Power's cold-weather operational procedures are reviewed with linemen, substation electricians, and meter readers in advance of any frigid conditions. West Penn Power personnel often receive extra breaks to stay warm when working in extreme cold to restore power after an outage. Crews also could be delayed by treacherous driving conditions.
FirstEnergy's utilities also have made it easier for customers to check the progress of service restoration efforts when they experience a power outage. The company's 24/7 Power Center outage maps now display the status of crews restoring service after a power outage. With this enhancement, FirstEnergy utility customers can see when crews have been dispatched, when they are working on a repair, and when additional crews or equipment are needed to complete restoration work.
FirstEnergy utility customers also can subscribe to email and text message alert notifications to receive billing reminders, weather alerts in advance of major storms, and updates on scheduled or extended power outages. Customers can also use two-way text messaging to report outages, request updates on restoration efforts, and make other inquiries about their electric accounts.
More information about these communications tools is available online at www.firstenergycorp.com/connect.
FirstEnergy is a diversified energy company 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. Visit FirstEnergy on the web at www.firstenergycorp.com or follow on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.
SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.