Automation in Action
April 13, 2021
This is the fourth in a series of articles on distribution program investments that are supporting our vision for the grid of the future.
Potomac Edison is contributing to our efforts to enhance service reliability by completing multiple distribution automation projects to help reduce power outages for thousands of customers in the company’s Maryland service area.
Distribution automation is designed to automatically switch customers to an adjacent power line in the event of certain outages (e.g., their regular line is damaged or needs to be taken out of service). Tying customers to a second source of power provides a backup feed to help keep electricity flowing to their homes and businesses.
“When identifying areas to install distribution automation equipment, we typically start with the worst-performing circuits,” said Dave Bedard, supervisor, Engineering Services. “Our engineers develop plans to strengthen these circuits and make them more reliable.”
Potomac Edison completed two distribution automation projects in the Frederick and Cumberland areas in 2019 that have reduced service interruptions for nearly 1,200 customers. During the fourth quarter of 2020, the company completed two additional projects that will help to reduce service interruptions for nearly 6,500 customers in the Brunswick and Cumberland areas. Last year’s projects included the installation of nine automated reclosers, new line regulators for voltage support, and reconductoring and line construction in various places along the circuits.
“Each project presents its own set of challenges,” continued Dave. “Rugged terrain, right-of-way access, permitting requirements and construction costs are all issues we have to address.”
Potomac Edison has four additional distribution automation projects planned for completion over the next two years, including two scheduled for 2021 in the New Windsor and McHenry areas. The company also is replacing approximately 50 miles of underground electric cable and installing 14 new substation reclosers annually.
Distribution automation is one of three reliability improvement programs that constitute Potomac Edison’s Electric Distribution Investment Surcharge (EDIS) initiative. The programs – which also include recloser and underground cable replacements – were approved by the Maryland Public Service Commission in 2019 and are scheduled to run through the end of 2022.
“These enhancements will generate meaningful benefits by improving our service restoration capabilities and reducing the impact of severe weather events experienced by thousands of our customers,” said Jim Sears, president, Maryland Operations. “We will continue to evaluate new technologies and other ways to modernize our distribution system to develop a more dynamic, intelligent and secure grid.”