FirstEnergy Corp. expects to invest about US$225 million in 2015 on distribution and transmission infrastructure projects in Mon Power's 34-county service area. The focus will be mainly on north-central West Virginia. About US$97 million of the budgeted total will be for transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission affiliate.
Infrastructure projects to reinforce the power system
Major projects scheduled for 2015 include transmission enhancements to reinforce the system and support economic growth, constructing new distribution lines, and inspecting and replacing utility poles and other equipment.
"Each year we carefully review and plan transmission and distribution projects that will enhance service to our customers while also preparing our system for future load growth," said Holly Kauffman, president of FirstEnergy's West Virginia operations. "In addition to new infrastructure projects, we also place great emphasis on equipment inspections to help reduce the number of outages our customers might experience."
Scheduled FirstEnergy projects in the Mon Power service area in 2015 include:
· Building a new 138kV transmission line that will support the natural gas industry and enhance electric service reliability for nearly 13,000 Mon Power customers in the Clarksburg and Salem areas. The 18-miles(28km) transmission line connecting substations in Oak Mound and Waldo Run is expected to be completed and operational by December, with about US$38 million to be spent on the project this year.
· Constructing a new 138kV transmission line and substation near West Milford to enhance service reliability for more than 14,000 Mon Power customers in Harrison, Lewis and Gilmer counties. The transmission line will be located in Harrison County and run about 10km (6 miles) between West Milford and Craigmoor. The line is expected to be completed and operational by December, with about US$16 million to be spent on the project in 2015.
· Investing more than US$25 million to provide electrical service to new residential and commercial customers in north-central West Virginia, specifically the Interstate-79 corridor and Parkersburg region.
· Upgrading and replacing equipment on distribution circuits throughout the service territory at an expected cost of more than US$8 million. The updates — including installing new wire, cable and fuses — are expected to enhance reliability for Mon Power customers. This includes continuing a project that began last year to improve reliability in Pendleton County.
· Inspecting about 75,000 distribution poles and replacing about 250 poles at an expected cost of more than US$800,000.
· Investing about US$1.4 million to replace transmission equipment identified during routine inspections of the electrical system to enhance reliability throughout Mon Power's service area.In addition, Mon Power expects to have an additional US$145 million in capital expenditures in 2015 related to generation.
Upgrading transmission for gas development
The projects are mainly as a result of FirstEnergy’s preparation for 1,100MW of expected load growth in the Marcellus Shale region from 2015 through 2019.
FirstEnergy is adding about US$100 million in transmission upgrades in West Virginia as part of a US$250 million programme to support the development of the natural gas industry in the Marcellus Shale.
Some of the coal mines that took decades to become First Energy’s largest customers have been eclipsed by plants planned by the natural gas industry, says Todd Meyers of FirstEnergy. He says that MonPower, FirstEnergy's utility in West Virginia, expects 400MW of load growth through 2019 from new gas facilities.