FirstEnergy plans $235M in improvements in West Penn Power area

Ethan Lott
Pittsburgh Business Times

FirstEnergy plans to spend $235 million during 2017 to make infrastructure upgrades in the 24-county West Penn Power services area, including improvements aimed at supporting the shale gas industry.

FirstEnergy announced its planned investment Tuesday, saying major projects include: transmission enhancements to reinforce the electric system and support economic growth, including in the shale gas industry; constructing new circuits and replacing utility poles; and installing enhanced protective devices on wires and poles.

"Our goal is to pursue transmission and distribution projects that not only enhance service to our existing customers, but also prepare our system to accommodate future economic growth,” said David McDonald, president of West Penn Power. “Proactive upgrades to our distribution system include the installation of automated and remote control devices designed to reduce the number and duration of service disruptions our customers might experience.”

Work planned for 2017 include:

  • A new transmission substation in Washington County to support two new midstream gas processing facilities near Burgettstown. About $11 million of the $40 million project will be spent in 2017;
  • Rebuilding a 7.5-mile line connecting substations in Grove City and Slippery Rock, costing about $14.8 million;
  • Replacing protective relay equipment in a transmission substation near Butler, Pa., at a cost of about $450,000;
  • Building a 1.3-mile transmission line for about $4 million to provide electrical service to a natural gas processing facility under development in Smith Township, Washington County;
  • Investing about $21 million on various reliability projects throughout West Penn Power’s 24-county service area;
  • Installing new switches and automating other equipment throughout the West Penn Power area at a cost of nearly $5 million;
  • Upgrading distribution substations across West Penn Power’s service area with more than $3 million in fault-monitoring equipment;
  • Inspecting about 36,000 utility poles and replacing or reinforcing about 240 poles at a cost of more than $1.2 million;
  • Upgrading equipment on 134 distribution circuits throughout the service territory to help enhance service reliability at a cost of about $2 million.

West Penn serves about 720,000 customers in 24 regional counties. In 2016, FirstEnergy spent about $200 million in the West Penn Power area on hundreds of large and small transmission and distribution projects.