Most of the work will be tree trimming near power lines.
Potomac Edison's electrical system is getting an upgrade. The company says it will be spending $55-million to make improvements to its electric grid that will enhance its reliability.
"We do these types of projects year end and year out," says Potomac Edison spokesman Todd Meyers. "But during the derecho, and during Hurricane Sandy, I get questions about 'don't you spend any money on trimming trees, and don't you do any work on the electric system?' Of course we do. We do that work all the time."
The upgrades will be costly, but Meyers says customers will not be charged anything extra for them. "They are part of the electric rates people pay all the time. So we're not changing rates. They're part of the rates already established," he says.
The company will be spending a large chunk of money, $17-million, on tree trimming. "Tree trimming is probably the most important tool that we have in our tool chest to shorten the duration of outages, and help prevent outages," says Meyers. Trimmed trees mean fewer limbs falling on power lines. He says crews will be trimming trees on about 470 miles of right of way in Frederick County.
Another upgrade is inspecting and replacing utility poles. Potomac Edison expects to replace 500 poles this year.
In addition, personnel will be replacing underground distribution cables. That job will cost $3-million and will take place in the Mount Airy and Damascus areas in Maryland, and Shepardstown in Jefferson County, West Virginia. "They need to be replaced systematically. Whenever we have an outage on that type of line, we replace some of the cable. And we also look at areas that are maybe more prone to outages than others, and every year we try to spend money on replacing some of that cable," says Meyers.
Other upgrades include making improvements to a 380-kilovolt line in Frederick County, adding high voltage equipment to a substation in the county, purchasing spare, high voltage power transformers, upgrading 90 distribution circuits throughout the service area and dividing two large distribution circuits in the Germantown and Urbana areas. "If there would be an outages, if a car should hit a pole, what it does is allows fewer customers which would be impacted because you have fewer customers on a particular circuit," says Meyers.
"The planned infrastructure projects are designed to help maintain our system on a day-to-day basis to benefit Potomac Edison customers now while helping to prepare our system for future load growth," says James Fakult, FirstEnergy's President of Maryland Operations and Vice President of Potomac Edison, in a statement. FirstEnergy is the parent company of Potomac Edison.