FirstEnergy Begins Upgrades At Substations

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – FirstEnergy Corp. subsidiary Ohio Edison has started grid modernization work in the greater Youngstown area to help enhance electric service reliability for residents and businesses, the utility announced Monday. 

The announcement came as nearly 5,000 customers in Youngstown and Campbell were left without power that afternoon.

The work includes the installation of new, automated equipment and technology in substations and along power lines to help prevent power outages and restore service faster for more than 20,000 customers in parts of Youngstown, Austintown, Girard, and nearby areas, FirstEnergy said in a press release.

“Every project is customized and designed to address the particular reliability needs of each community where work is being done,” said Ed Shuttleworth, president of FirstEnergy’s Ohio operations. “While events out of our control, like severe weather or vehicle accidents, still have the potential to cause outages, we are taking steps to minimize the impact of service interruptions when they do occur, often limiting them to just a brief or momentary outage.”

Locations for these automated devices were determined based on a review of historical outage patterns across greater Youngstown to identify the areas that could benefit most from new technology.

FirstEnergy has come under fire this year because of recurring power outages that affected residents and businesses during the winter – especially in Austintown and in parts of Youngstown.  

FirstEnergy has also drawn backlash from community groups, businesses and elected officials because of its proposal to string high-tension power lines along the Mahoning River in Youngstown, directly behind major entertainment venues such as the Covelli Centre, Wean Park, and the Youngstown Foundation Amphitheatre. 

That plan has not appeared before the Ohio Power Siting Board yet.

The latest upgrades include new electrical equipment in five substations in Trumbull and Mahoning counties, as well as modernizing the power lines that deliver electric service to customers from those facilities, the company said.  Nearly 40 new automated reclosing devices in the substations and along power lines will be installed to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions, FirstEnergy said. 

These electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergizing a substation or power line within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing to customers. This technology is safer and more efficient because it often allows utility personnel to automatically restore service to customers instead of sending a crew to investigate.

If the device senses a more serious issue, like a fallen tree on electrical equipment, it will isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected customers, FirstEnergy said. The device’s smart technology is able to quickly pinpoint the location of the fault and help utility personnel determine the cause of the outage and help to speed up restoration.

The utility also said Monday that additional power lines tying together existing circuits are now under construction to provide more flexibility in restoring service following outages. The new power lines will help reduce the length and overall number of customers impacted during an outage by switching them to a backup line for faster service restoration.

Lastly, capacitor banks are being installed to help ensure all customers served by a single power line receive the same flow of safe, reliable power by evenly distributing electricity down the line. 

The work is scheduled for completion by the end of this year, the company said. 

Beyond the infrastructure upgrades underway in the Youngstown area, the company plans to complete tree-trimming work and equipment inspections this year along more than 1,000 miles of power lines to reinforce existing infrastructure and minimize the impact of damage caused by storms.

Ohio Edison serves more than one million customers across 34 Ohio counties. 

Image courtesy of FirstEnergy

Published by The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.