ComEd has assessed more than 10,000 manholes and refurbished more than 6200 since 2012, as part of the grid modernization program under the Smart Grid law to improve the electric system's reliability.
Manholes are underground structures containing large electrical cables that power skyscrapers and densely populated residential and commercial neighborhoods across the system.
"This extraordinary work means shorter outages for families and businesses and is helping improve the safety of our workers," said Terence Donnelly, executive vice president and chief operating officer for ComEd. "It's part of our vision to improve the customer experience and be the new model utility."
The work in 2013 represents an increase in its base-year pace for manhole replacement, a result of the Smart Grid law. The aim is to assess all 32,000 manholes in ComEd's system by the end of 2017.
As part of the grid modernization effort, ComEd also is enhancing its manhole inspection program, capturing more data about the condition of manholes and accelerating its work to refurbish them to improve electric reliability and safety. To both maximize data gathering efficiency and minimize data entry error, ComEd's engineers have developed a new online assessment tool for capturing manhole data, including current condition and any unique issues.
ComEd has also begun using a 360-degree camera to provide full panoramic views of the manhole interior. The camera is used to capture both pre- and post-refurbishment images, which are attached electronically to manhole records in ComEd's system mapping tool. This program is creating a safer environment for ComEd's workers and has improved work planning, allowing workers to assess conditions in the manhole before entering.
The manhole inspection and refurbishment program supports jobs and economic development in northern Illinois. ComEd has been working with MZI Group, a construction firm based in Chicago's Near West Side, on the manhole project. The company has hired 18 electricians to perform this work and purchased $700,000 worth of equipment from Illinois-based companies.
"Not only is our manhole work improving the safety and reliability of the electric grid, it is putting Illinoisans back to work," said Arthur Miller, founder and CEO of MZI Group. "Some of our electricians had been out of work for an average of 15 months before being hired. This project has been a game-changer for our firm and for our workers and their families."
ComEd plans to invest $2.6 billion over 10 years to upgrade and improve the reliability of its system as part of the Smart Grid law. The utility has been working to improve its infrastructure and add smart technologies, bringing benefits to customers throughout northern Illinois.