Upgrades Extend Beyond Underground

CEI will continue making major investments in projects designed to further upgrade its underground power system.

August 11, 2020

The Illuminating Company (CEI) has been working to upgrade its underground power system in recent years, and that commitment – along with a strong safety focus – is continuing.

In 2020, CEI plans to further work on its underground infrastructure in the Greater Cleveland area, where employees serve more than 750,000 customers across Ashtabula, Cuyahoga, Geauga, Lake and Lorain counties.

Over the past five years, the utility company has focused on upgrades to its underground system to support service reliability for nearly 536,000 customers in Cuyahoga County.

In total, employees have replaced more than 90 miles of older, uncoated underground cable with new power lines. The new lines are coated in a thick shell to make them more durable against elements like dirt, rocks, lightning and water.

To determine the best locations for upgrades, employees reviewed outage patterns across CEI’s service territory and identified areas that would most benefit. More than one-third of CEI’s completed work was performed in Strongsville, where the utility maintains about 1,200 miles of underground lines serving 40,000 customers.

Additional plans are in place to upgrade eight miles of underground line in Strongsville and 15 miles of line across the Cleveland area this year.

“This work demonstrates our commitment to upgrading our system against power outages so we can keep power flowing to our customers around the clock,” said Regional President Mark Jones. “We operate one of the nation’s largest underground electric systems, and these upgrades allow us to continue providing safe, dependable power to our customers.”

In addition to planned work, employees complete upgrades every year in response to system failures.

“When we see failures occur in the ducted underground system, we handle them right away by replacing the old cable with new. We typically replace 10 miles of ducted cable per year across the Cleveland area based on failures,” explained Tony Brown, manager, Operations Services.

Throughout the upgrade process, CEI has also made important moves to enhance employee safety.

“We’ve implemented changes and purchased equipment to better protect our employees while they work,” added Tony. “Recently, we upgraded the docking stations that monitor underground gas levels, so they calibrate and communicate better with our servers. We also purchased a new, custom-designed cable truck with enhanced safety features.”

The new truck has an improved tension mechanism that assists employees with the safe pulling of cable. This mechanism helps mitigate pinch-point injuries and line-of-fire exposures – important safety considerations for every crew performing underground work.

New safety equipment – including this cable truck with an improved tension mechanism – was recently purchased to help safeguard underground employees on the job.