Ohio Edison is spending $275 million this year to enhance its electric system and reliability, the subsidiary of Akron-based FirstEnergy Corp. said.
Major projects include completing three new substations, enhancing circuits and substations, inspecting and replacing utility poles, and ongoing vegetation management programs.
“The planned infrastructure projects are designed to help maintain our system on a day-to-day basis to benefit Ohio Edison customers now while helping to prepare our system for future load growth,” Dave Karafa, regional president of Ohio Edison, said in a news release.
In a phone interview, Karafa said the operating company typically would spend about $200 million.
The utility is outlining its capital improvements as a way to share with customers how it invests each year to improve service reliability, said spokesman Todd Schneider. The capital improvements are recoverable for the utility from ratepayers in future rate cases submitted to regulators.
Here’s a look at each of the projects. Some have already begun and some will continue throughout the year:
• Completing two new modular substations to serve Montville Township in southeast Medina County and Brimfield Township in western Portage County. Costs here will total almost $4 million. The facilities are expected to be in service by June 1.
In Montville Township, the “Poe Substation” named after nearby Poe Road sits on a 3-acre site.
The substation in Brimfield sits on a 1-acre site and will be known as the Old Forge Substation near Old Forge Road. Engineers anticipate Poe could serve about 4,000 customers and Brimfield about 3,500. The company said several large commercial customers in Brimfield use more power than residential customers.
Overall, Ohio Edison said it has about 56,000 customers in Medina County and about 2,000 customers in Brimfield.
The new substations cut repair time when there are outages, said Karafa. During outages, crews can reroute power from another substation.
• Completing the new Black River Substation Project in Lorain. The new station is expected to provide support for growth in Lorain, including a new arc furnace at Republic Steel. Overall, the cost for this project, which will be completed by June 1, is about $17 million.
• Spending approximately $2 million in Columbiana, Trumbull, Lorain and Medina counties. These changes are on wires on poles along the streets and in neighborhoods, Karafa said.
• Installing improved relays and computer control systems at substations in Akron, Canal Fulton, Cortland, Garrettsville, Medina, North Fairfield, Warren and Youngstown. These changes will aid remote monitoring and operations of these stations from Ohio Edison’s dispatch center in Akron. Animal guards will be installed, insulators and switches will be replaced, and breaker upgrades will help during outages.
Karafa said all substations have animal guards, but “every once in awhile, birds figure out how to get a nest in an area or animals chew through an area.”
• Spending more than $8.5 million inspecting and replacing distribution poles. The inspection process is conducted on a 10-year cycle. Approximately 58,000 utility poles will be inspected in 2013, with about 3,000 expected to be replaced.
• Spending more than $20 million in an ongoing vegetation management program to trim trees and maintain proper clearances. Some of the scheduled communities include Akron, Alliance, Delaware, Elyria, Fairlawn, Kent, Lorain, Mansfield, Massillon, Marion, Medina, Ravenna, Sandusky, Springfield, Warren and Youngstown. Overall, more than 6,200 miles of Ohio Edison distribution lines will be trimmed in 2013.
Karafa said the utility knows that tree-trimming can be an emotional issue for customers and said the company employs professional arborists.