WILLIAMSPORT, Md., Nov. 16, 2015 /PRNewswire/ -- The leaves have fallen and Potomac Edison, 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 James A. Sears, Jr., president of FirstEnergy's Maryland operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "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 are inspected, as moisture in the system can freeze and cause reduced braking efficiency. In addition, the diesel fuel used in company vehicles contains a special winter additive that prevents the fuel from gelling in the cold. Trucks also are outfitted with anti-skid materials like sand and salt, and tire chains are inspected and repaired or replaced as needed.
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 about 1,450 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the Potomac Edison 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 inspections will be addressed to minimize weather damage in severe conditions.
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. Potomac Edison tree contractors have trimmed more than 2,100 circuit miles of electric lines since January.
Employee safety also is a priority during the winter. Potomac Edison's cold-weather operational procedures are reviewed with linemen, substation electricians, and meter readers in advance of any frigid conditions. Potomac Edison 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.
Potomac Edison serves about 257,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and more than 137,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. Follow Potomac Edison on Twitter @PotomacEdison.
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 online at www.firstenergycorp.com or follow on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp.
SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.