West Penn Power Invests US$48 million in its Transmission Infrastructure

West Penn’s transmission infrastructure upgrade will improve service reliability and prepare the grid for load growth.
Published: Fri 20 Mar 2015

Energy firm, FirstEnergy, has spent approximately US$181 million in 2014 on reliability infrastructure projects and other work in the West Penn Power service area. The investment includes building new transmission lines and substations, and installing remote control equipment to help reduce the number and duration of power outages.

Of this amount, over US$48 million has been spent on transmission-related projects owned by the Trans-Allegheny Interstate Line Company (TrAILCo), a FirstEnergy transmission company.

Transmission projects improve service

“These projects help us enhance day-to-day service reliability for our customers along with maintaining our system's capability to handle future load growth," said David W. McDonald, president of West Penn Power. "For example, investments we have made in infrastructure improvements and tree trimming in recent years helped reduce the frequency of outages for West Penn customers by 16% in 2014 compared to the previous year. Similarly, from 2010 through 2013, our trimming programme helped reduce by nearly 50% the number of West Penn Power customers affected by a tree-related service interruption."

Some key FirstEnergy projects in West Penn Power's 24-county service area in 2014:

  • Completing a new transmission line and substation in Armstrong County at a cost of about US$30 million. The new facilities will support the regional transmission system and help enhance service reliability for more than 100,000 West Penn Power customers in Allegheny, Armstrong, Butler, Clarion, and Westmoreland counties.

  • Trimming trees to help maintain proper clearances and protect against tree-related storm damage along nearly 4,500 miles (7242 km) of power lines at a cost of more than US$25 million.

  • Finishing various projects at a cost of more than US$18 million to expand West Penn Power's distribution system.

  • Building new transmission switching facilities in central Pennsylvania to enhance transmission reliability and capacity in the State College and St. Mary's regions at a cost of nearly US$7 million.

  • Installing a new high-voltage transformer at a substation near Ryerson Station in Greene County. The US$2.1-million project supports the electricity demand of area coal mines.

  • Reinforcing circuit breakers at a substation in Westmoreland County at a cost of nearly US$600,000 for added protection of equipment in southwest Pennsylvania.

  • Repairing and replacing 450 wood utility poles at a cost of about $1.5 million. Crews inspected 57,600 of 491,000 wood poles throughout the service area.

  • Upgrading 135 distribution circuits throughout the service territory at a cost of nearly $1 million to help enhance service reliability for 55,000 West Penn Power customers. These enhancements included installing new wire, cable and fuses.

There are additional upgrade plans for the grid this year and these include new substations, transmission lines and circuit upgrades.

Transmission projects-keeping the customer updated

Last year, West Penn Power made it easier for customers to check the progress of service restoration efforts when they experience a power outage. The company's 24/7 Power Centre outage maps now display the status of crews restoring service after a power outage.

With this enhancement, West Penn Power 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.

West Penn Power customers also can subscribe to email and text message alert notifications to receive billing reminders, weather alerts in advance of major storms, and updates on scheduled or extended power outages. Customers can also use two-way text messaging to report outages, request updates on restoration efforts, and make other inquiries about their electric accounts.

West Penn Power serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties so it is critical to use a wide range of social media to stay in contact with their customers