The Pennsylvania Electric Company (Penelec), a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., plans to install about 2,000 automated "TripSaver" reclosing devices on power lines across its service area over the next five years to help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions. The electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home with the added benefit of automatically re-energizing a power line within seconds to keep power safely flowing to customers.
The company is on track to install about 400 TripSavers in 2020 at a cost of about $3.5 million. A two-man crew can install four or five TripSavers per day. The work is part of Penelec's Long Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan (LTIIP II), a $200 million initiative to accelerate capital investments through 2024 to help ensure continued electric service reliability for the company's 585,000 customers.
Utility crews install TripSavers on local neighborhood distribution lines that branch from the main power line serving an area. When there is a temporary problem with the line, such as a tree limb contacting the line, the TripSaver can sense when the branch is gone and automatically re-energize the line to prevent an extended outage in the neighborhood – all in a matter of seconds. If the TripSaver senses a more serious issue, such as a fallen tree on the power line, it will isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected customers. The device's smart technology quickly pinpoints the location of the electrical fault and helps utility personnel better understand the cause of the outage to help speed restoration.
"TripSavers allow us to automatically restore service to customers rather than roll a truck and crew to investigate the issue, which is especially useful in remote areas of our expansive service territory," said Nick Austin, regional president of Penelec. "These devices allow for safer and more efficient service restoration for both our employees and our customers."
Reliability engineers review outage information to identify the best locations for TripSavers, typically outage-prone distribution lines with large customer counts. The new devices will also replace some older equipment in the field used to isolate damage and limit the number of impacted customers. Penelec crews and contractors are scheduled to install TripSavers in these areas in 2020: Albion, Altoona, Bedford, Bradford, Clearfield, Corry, Dubois, Ebensburg, Erie, Huntingdon, Indiana, Johnstown, Lewistown, Mansfield, Meadville, Montrose, Oil City, Phillipsburg, Sayre, Shippensburg, Towanda and Warren.