Severe weather, equipment issues, and fallen trees and other impacts should cause less-widespread power outages in the near future in parts of Pennsylvania.
West Penn Power has plans to install thousands of fuses on its power lines over the next five years. These devices help to reduce the number of customers affected by power outages caused by isolated issues.
The approximately $21 million project is part of West Penn’s $147 million Long-Term Infrastructure Improvement Plan, an initiative to accelerate capital investments through 2024 to help ensure continued electric service reliability for the company’s 725,000 customers, according to a news release.
Beginning this year, West Penn Power line workers and contractors are expected to install 6,000 to 7,500 new fuses on distribution poles and wires throughout central and southwestern Pennsylvania.
Fuses are protective devices made of polymer that automatically open when a system irregularity is detected, protecting electrical equipment while limiting the scope of an outage to a smaller section of the distribution line, according to the release.
“Our eventual goal is to install enough new fuses to separate distribution lines into smaller blocks of 30 to 35 customers,” said John Rea, West Penn Power regional president. “Some longer circuits may be equipped with several hundred fuses, limiting the number of customers affected by an outage.”
This year, West Penn or its contractors will install fuses in 22 circuits in Franklin County and on circuits in nine other western counties. In Franklin, some of the lines that will get fuses are located in Antrim Township, St. Thomas Township, Peters Township, State Line, Edenville, Shady Grove and Lemasters, said West Penns spokesperson Todd Meyers.
It takes two workers about one hour to install a fuse, and the work can usually be completed without a planned outage.
The fuse installation project continues work that was completed during the company’s long-term infrastructure improvement plan of 2016-20. Fuse installations over that period resulted in a more than 10 percent decrease in the average number of customers affected per power outage.