Powering the Mountain State
May 27, 2020
Enhancing service reliability to schools, medical facilities and commercial developments were among a wide range of infrastructure projects and maintenance activities completed by Mon Power employees over the past year.
Some of the work has involved installing new equipment and replacing existing equipment based on age or a visual inspection. These infrastructure renewal projects focused on refurbishing electrical components, such as poles, transformers, crossarms and cutouts.
“Several of the projects were tailored to support specific commercial customers while others targeted enhancing reliability for broader regions,” said Mike Haines, director, Operations Services. “Our goal is to reinforce our electrical infrastructure for customers across our service territory.”
As part of its annual pole inspection program, Mon Power plans to inspect 56,000 poles this year. So far, the company has identified 150 that need replaced. Last year, Mon Power inspected more than 88,000 poles and replaced about 1,000.
The utility also has sought to improve the communication, flexibility and connectivity of its electric system with the addition of remote-control devices and automated equipment. Work has included the installation of electronic circuit breakers, or reclosers, on overhead electric lines that can be operated remotely from the company’s distribution control centers. These devices can help shorten the duration of outages and limit the number of customers affected when outages occur.
“We have locations where, in the past, a circuit would remain deenergized until a technician traveled to the site to perform the switching operation manually,” explained Mike. “Incorporating additional automated devices into the system will help us respond to outages in those locations more quickly and efficiently using remote switching capability.”
Taking an Aggressive Approach to Vegetation Maintenance
The biggest part of Mon Power’s efforts to enhance service reliability for customers is the company’s enhanced vegetation management program. After two major weather events – Hurricane Sandy and a derecho – caused extensive damage to electrical infrastructure in 2012, the West Virginia Public Service Commission (PSC) contacted all state electric utilities to see what improvements could be made.
“When the PSC approached us about how we could reduce the number of weather-related service interruptions, our answer was simple – to strengthen our vegetation management program,” said Todd Riggleman, manager, Forestry Services. “We partnered with the PSC to develop and implement an aggressive five-year maintenance plan to clear all existing Mon Power rights-of-way from the substation to the final customer on the line.”
Now that the initial five-year effort is complete, Mon Power plans to maintain its rights-of-way on a four-year cycle moving forward. “Because of the thoroughness of our program, we can now focus our clearing efforts on off-right-of-way trees that are the number one cause of power outages for Mon Power,” Todd added.
Even during the COVID-19 health emergency, work continues to progress on reliability projects in Mon Power’s service territory. “We’ve had to make some changes in our day-to-day operations to help protect the health and safety of our workforce, but Mon Power employees are continuing to perform all the tasks necessary to keep the lights on for our customers,” said Mike.