FirstEnergy Corp. plans to invest more than $143 million in 2014 in service reliability infrastructure upgrades in its Potomac Edison service area. This represents about an $80 million increase compared to what the company invested in reliability infrastructure projects in western Maryland and the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia last year.
Major projects scheduled for this year include transmission enhancements, building new distribution circuits, replacing underground cables, and making system enhancements in high-growth areas experiencing new residential and commercial development.
"Many of the planned infrastructure projects are designed to enhance the reliable, day-to-day service we now provide our customers," said James A. Sears, Jr., FirstEnergy's president of Maryland Operations and vice president of Potomac Edison. "We also are taking steps to prepare our system for tomorrow's inevitable growth. Whether we are trimming trees, installing new equipment at substations or rebuilding older transmission and distribution facilities, our objective is to make a good system even better."
Of FirstEnergy's $143 million infrastructure investment in the region for 2014, about $42 million will be for transmission-related projects built and owned by Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company, a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.
Potomac Edison's 2014 enhancements are expected to have both localized and widespread system benefits to customers throughout the service area. Scheduled projects include:
- Rebuilding a 500-kilovolt (kV) transmission line in Frederick County, Md., as part of a joint project with Dominion Power. Potomac Edison will invest $13 million for its part of the project which will enhance reliability of the regional electric grid.
- Investing more than $18 million to trim trees and control vegetation along 2,600 miles of distribution and high-voltage transmission lines to help reduce tree-related storm damage and lessen the duration of storm outages. Some areas scheduled for 2014 include Allegany, Berkeley, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington counties.
- Continuing improvements at the Doubs Substation in Frederick County, which includes a new control building and emergency generator, at a cost of more than $4 million. The work will enhance service reliability and ensure adequate capacity to accommodate load growth in the area for years to come.
- Upgrading equipment on about 90 distribution circuits throughout the service area at a cost of about $4.4 million. The enhancements – installing new wire, cable and fuses, as well as replacing aging equipment – are expected to enhance the electrical system and reliability for about 65,000 customers in Maryland and West Virginia.
- Replacing underground distribution cables with new equipment. Work totaling more than $4.5 million is planned in all areas of the service territory, with a focus in Frederick and Damascus, Md. Outages involving underground wires often take longer to restore than overhead outages.
- Installing new equipment at a cost of more than $2.5 million to increase capacity of the Davis Mill Substation in Montgomery County, Md., to accommodate accelerated growth in the Germantown and Clarksburg areas.
- Installing new equipment at the Corning Substation in Berkeley County, W. Va., to allow for load growth and help enhance reliability for existing customers in the Tabler and Inwood areas.
- Dividing a large distribution circuit in the South Martinsburg, W. Va., area to prepare for load expansion in this fast-growing area of new residential and commercial construction.
- Replacing equipment at the Urbana Substation to better protect existing high-voltage equipment and help reduce the risk of outages in the Urbana, Md., area.
- Completing systematic repairs and replacing equipment on a 138-kV regional transmission line spanning Hardy and Mineral counties, W. Va., to help enhance regional reliability.
- Replacing distribution lines, some dating from the 1930s, in the Sharpsburg area of Washington County, Md., to help reduce outage frequency and duration.
- Inspecting and proactively replacing distribution and sub-transmission utility poles in the Potomac Edison service area. Approximately 24,000 utility poles will be inspected in 2014, with about 300 expected to be replaced.
Potomac Edison serves about 250,000 customers in seven Maryland counties and 132,000 customers in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia.