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Penn Power Completes Inspections and Maintenance to Help Enhance Service Reliability for Customers Through Winter Season

NEW CASTLE, Pa., Nov. 22, 2021 -- With the cold-weather months expected to produce higher electric use, Penn Power, a FirstEnergy Corp. electric company, recently completed inspections and equipment maintenance to help enhance service reliability for customers while they rely on power to stay warm, safe and comfortable.

"Completing inspections and equipment maintenance now can help enhance system resiliency to keep power flowing to customers when severe winter weather strikes," said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy's Pennsylvania operations. "This work complements the vast power system upgrades we've recently made across western Pennsylvania to help prevent power outages or minimize their impact when they do occur."

Helicopter inspections have been completed on more than 1,000 miles of FirstEnergy high-voltage transmission lines located across the greater Pittsburgh area. The inspections are designed to detect early-stage equipment issues not visible from the ground. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspections are addressed to help prevent disruptions to electric service.

Tree trimming throughout the year also helps reinforce the power system ahead of the winter season by maintaining proper clearances around electrical equipment and helping to protect against tree-related outages caused by the weight of ice and heavy, wet snow on branches. FirstEnergy's utility tree contractors have completed trimming work along more than 1,000 miles of transmission and distribution power lines to date this year across Penn Power's service area, and they are on track to complete an additional 300 miles of tree trimming by the end of December.

On the ground, proactive equipment inspections include using "thermovision" cameras to capture infrared images of electrical equipment that can detect potential problems within substations and on power lines that aren't visible through regular visual inspections. The infrared technology shows heat on a color scale, with brighter colors or "hot spots" indicating areas that could need repairs. These images can identify equipment issues such as loose connections, corrosion and load imbalances, and utility workers are able to proactively make repairs to prevent potential power outages in the future. 

Penn Power has also installed interior fencing in five substations in Mercer, Lawrence and Butler counties to help deter climbing animals that often seek food, shelter and warmth during the cold-weather months, protecting against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages. The fencing – installed inside of a substation around the perimeter of the equipment – keeps the animals out of harm's way and the electricity safely flowing to customers. This technology has eliminated animal-related power outages in substations where fence applications were installed over the past two years.

Other winter preparation work completed by Penn Power employees includes inspections on electrical equipment along neighborhood power lines, like transformers, to ensure the equipment is operational and the lines are ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the winter, typically due to heating. 

Lastly, company bucket trucks and other vehicles are being inspected to help ensure safe operation during the winter season. Special emphasis is placed on the condition of tires and air braking systems, which can freeze up if moisture is present. Snow removal equipment is also being checked. 

Beyond infrastructure maintenance, Penn Power employees also participated in readiness exercises and drills throughout the year to test the company's restoration process used to address winter storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in response to severe weather that has occurred over the last several years.

FirstEnergy is dedicated to integrity, safety, reliability and operational excellence. Its 10 electric distribution companies form one of the nation's largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company's transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 24,000 miles of transmission lines that connect the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions. Follow FirstEnergy online at Follow FirstEnergy on Twitter: @FirstEnergyCorp.

Editor's Note: Photos of workers conducting inspections to enhance service reliability for FirstEnergy's utility customers are available for download on Flickr. Videos of utility personnel conducting a thermovision inspection and installing the interior substation fencing can be found on the company's YouTube channel.

SOURCE FirstEnergy Corp.

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