Ready for Summer? FEU is…

Employees use thermal-imaging cameras to detect "hot spots" on substation equipment and other devices.

June 15, 2021

Summer is when customers typically use the most electricity – most notably by cranking up the air conditioning in response to warmer temperatures. To ensure our equipment is ready for the higher power demand brought on by the heat, employees across the FEU organization have been busy performing a wide range of work.

“It’s a rigorous effort,” said Brandon Papa, director, Operations Services, at Penelec. “For example, before the beginning of June, we complete inspections of all of our line and substation capacitor banks to make sure the equipment is in good condition and we have at least 98% availability.”

Helicopters equipped with aerial saws trim trees and maintain clearances along hard-to-access transmission and distribution corridors throughout our service territory.

In addition, an inventory of spare equipment is completed.

“We make certain that we have an adequate supply of parts on hand, such as voltage regulators, oil pumps, fan components, whatever we might need to make repairs,” added Brandon.

FEU employs a multitude of monitoring activities, equipment inspections and other maintenance tasks to keep our power flowing smoothly during the summer months. Proactive equipment inspections include using thermovision cameras that take infrared images of electrical equipment and can detect potential problems in substations and on power lines that regular visual inspection cannot, such as loose connections, corrosion and load imbalances.

Brandon pointed out that our Pennsylvania Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plans (LTIIPs) contribute to readiness for power delivery during peak season.

“With LTIIP, we’ve made vast equipment and automated technology upgrades over the past 18 months to help prevent power outages and reduce many interruptions to just a brief or momentary outage,” he said.

Similarly, Energizing the Future transmission projects have boosted reliability of high-voltage systems during summertime, when hot temperatures and frequent thunderstorms can greatly affect service.

“Today we have a more reliable, resilient and flexible transmission system than ever before,” explained Rod Phillips, director, Transmission Operations. “When a heat wave occurs or a summer storm hits, we have better control room tools and a more robust system which helps us plan for and respond to outages and stressors on the system.”

Summer storms that can knock down tree limbs and uproot entire trees are always a threat to power delivery. Vegetation Management works to protect reliability by removing trees too near to power lines and trimming overhanging limbs where necessary. In addition, poststorm circuit patrols look for and remove damaged trees that may have potential to cause a future outage.

Ensuring reliability also means calling in air support. In May, a helicopter equipped with an aerial saw began trimming trees along difficult-to-access transmission line corridors to maintain electrical clearances. Helicopter patrols also inspect transmission lines looking for damaged wire, broken cross arms, failed insulators and other hardware problems not visible from the ground.

In addition, employees prepare for the summer months by reviewing proper safety procedures and precautions for working in the heat and humidity.

“Heat-related illnesses are a major concern this time of year,” said Laura Redenshek, director, FEU Safety and Human Performance. “Ensuring employees know the signs of heat stress, heat stroke and the importance of proper hydration is critically important. During the warm weather months, it’s essential to control exposures by taking adequate breaks, scheduling work appropriately and avoiding distractions by rem​aining focused.”