FirstEnergy Corp. has announced a 4-year, $2.8 billion expansion of its “Energizing the Future” transmission initiative, with the main focus of the initial construction effort on 69 kV transmission power lines and substations in the Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, Toledo Edison and Penn Power areas.

Work on these new projects is expected to begin in 2014 and continue through 2017. The program is expected to be expanded into other FirstEnergy service territories during the next several years.

“Our work on the backbone of our network will focus on enhancing the service reliability to the communities, businesses and homes in our service areas,” said Anthony J. Alexander, president and chief executive officer of FirstEnergy. “Our goal is to replace outdated equipment with state-of-the-art 'smart' technology that can be operated remotely in order to help prevent some outages from occurring – and if an outage does occur, the new equipment can help reduce the number of customers who are affected, and shorten the duration.”

As part of the program, approximately 7,200 circuit miles of 69 kV and higher transmission lines and 70,000 transmission structures will be evaluated and rebuilt as needed, and more than 170 substations will be inspected and upgraded.

The scope of the work will involve adding redundancies to the network. Work also will be done to improve security at substations by adding new fencing, thermal imaging devices, and various surveillance options.

While some of the projects will be done by FirstEnergy personnel, certain aspects of the work will be completed by area electrical contractors, which will benefit the local economy by creating additional construction jobs. Over the four years, the program is expected to put more than 1,100 contractors to work, with the majority being union workers from northeast Ohio.

Overall, the new transmission projects are designed to increase FirstEnergy's load serving capability in areas where future economic growth is anticipated, particularly in Ohio's shale gas regions; improve reliability of service; create more flexibility to restore service following storms; reduce line losses; and lower the company's overall transmission maintenance costs.

“Energizing the Future” was announced in May 2012 as part of FirstEnergy's ongoing commitment to enhance its HV transmission system. Many of the projects – including new or rebuilt HV power lines, new substations, and the installation of specialized voltage regulating equipment – are needed to help support system reliability as coal-fired power plants in the region are deactivated based on the U.S. EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) and other environmental rules.

Picture: Anthony J. Alexander, President and CEO, FirstEnergy