West Penn Power is upgrading its distribution system in Butler County, Pennsylvania, as part of an effort to reduce long service outages, especially during severe weather.
The upgrade includes replacing worn equipment, repairing underground power lines, and placing hundreds of protective devices on numerous power lines. The upgrades are part of West Penn Power‘s Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan, a five-year, $147 million initiative to accelerate capital investments in the company’s electrical distribution system.
“Together, these projects are designed to help reduce both the number and duration of power outages for approximately 15,000 customers,” said Scott Wyman, president of operations for FirstEnergy in Pennsylvania. “Since 2016, we have invested more than $100 million to accelerate improvements to the distribution system that powers homes and businesses in West Penn Power’s service area.
Crews will conduct inspections — on foot and with drones — along a 13-mile power line that serves more than 1,800 customers in the Portersville and Slippery Rock areas. Inspections will seek to identify cross-ties, fuses and other components requiring repair or replacement to improve line performance. Work will continue to downtown Butler City through June to convert a section of power line near Center Avenue from 4 kilovolts (kV) to 12 kV. This will result in more even voltage for 140 customers in the city. Some of the existing utility poles will need to be replaced with larger poles to accommodate the new equipment.
Additionally, contractors will place approximately 300 new fuses on 16 power lines serving 13,000 customers located around Butler City and south along Highway 8 toward Pittsburgh. Fuses are devices that automatically open when they detect an abnormality in the system, such as a tree branch or an animal coming into contact with a power line. These fuses limit the scope of outages to smaller sections of a power line, reducing the number of customers affected by outages.
Additionally, an electrical contractor will repair approximately one mile of aging underground power lines in the Dutchtown Village neighborhood near the main campus of Butler County Community College. Technicians will inject the power line with a silicone-based fluid that should extend its useful life by 20 or 30 years. The fluid fills the cracks and spaces in the insulation surrounding the wire, allowing the line to provide reliable, continuous electrical service for a fraction of what it would cost to replace it. The work is scheduled for July and will benefit more than 70 customers.
West Penn Power – a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp. – serves approximately 725,000 customers in 24 counties in central and southwestern Pennsylvania.