GREENSBURG, Pa., Nov. 14, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- In preparation for winter, West Penn Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. (NYSE: FE), is completing inspections and conducting equipment maintenance on weather-sensitive equipment across its service area.
Winter's cold temperatures can 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 equipment maintenance now can help to enhance system resiliency when the snow begins to fly.
"Conducting winter maintenance procedures for our infrastructure, combined with fleet maintenance designed to prepare our vehicles for winter weather, make a difference when the weather turns cold," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. "Preparing now for potential severe weather conditions helps enhance the service we provide to our customers."
The work includes inspecting heating equipment for substation components, such as capacitor banks, transformers, oil- and gas-filled circuit breakers. Some substations also include buildings that house remote-controlled relay equipment. These structures will be winterized and have the heating systems checked.
Substation electricians also inspect 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. Crews use special thermal-imaging cameras to detect hot spots invisible to the naked eye on equipment prone to overheating and malfunctioning as customers crank up their heaters to combat the cold.
Company bucket trucks and other vehicles also are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season. Special emphasis is placed on the condition of tires and any air braking systems, which can freeze up if moisture is present. In addition, snow removal equipment is being checked. The plows are 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 approximately 1,700 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located in the West Penn Power eservice 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 may then be addressed.
In addition, tree trimming throughout the year helps 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 expect to complete trimming along about 4,900 circuit miles of electric lines in 2017.
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 take extra measures 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 if they experience a power outage during severe winter weather. 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. This information also is provided through the companies' web-based outage information, and text messaging and alert services.
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 more than 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter @FirstEnergyCorp or online at www.firstenergycorp.com.
Editor's Note: Photos of FirstEnergy's utilities' winter inspection and maintenance program are available for download on Flickr.
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SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.