FirstEnergy plans to expand its proposed ‘Energizing the Future’ transmission initiative with an investment of $2.8bn over four years.
The expanded initiative is aimed at constructing 69kV transmission power lines and substations in the Ohio Edison, Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company, Toledo Edison and Penn Power areas with work set to start in 2014 and continue through 2017.
Under the initiative, the company will evaluate and rebuild around 7,200 circuit miles of 69kV and higher transmission lines, 170 substations and 70,000 transmission structures.
The company will add redundancies to the network to improve customer service reliability and add new fencing, thermal imaging devices, and various surveillance options to enhance security at substations.
FirstEnergy personnel will carry out some projects under the programme, while area electrical contractors will complete the remaining work. Together, the project creates employment for more than 1,100 contractors, with most of them being union workers from north-east Ohio.
Once complete, the projects will enhance the company’s load serving capability in potential economic growth areas including Ohio’s shale gas regions; enhance service reliability; create flexible restore service following storms; reduce line losses; and reduce overall transmission maintenance costs, the company claims.
FirstEnergy president and CEO Anthony Alexander said the projects will help enhance the service reliability to the communities, businesses and homes in its service areas.
Alexander said: "The average age for much of this equipment is more than 40 years old. Our goal is to replace outdated equipment with state-of-the-art ‘smart’ technology that can be operated remotely in order to help prevent some outages from occurring.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."
The company had announced its original plans in May 2012 to build a series of transmission projects to help improve service reliability across its area and PJM Interconnection had approved those projects.
PJM has iterated the need for such projects to improve system reliability as coal-fired power plants in the region are deactivated based on the US EPA Mercury and Air Toxics Standards and other environmental rules.
As part of the May 2012 plan, the company is likely to invest around $1.8bn over the next five years in the projects in Ohio, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey and Maryland.