FirstEnergy using helicopters to inspect transmission lines
Ohio Edison says it has completed inspections and maintenance, using helicopters and other tools, to improve service reliability to customers.
“We proactively inspect and maintain our equipment to help ensure system reliability to meet the increased electrical demand when the temperatures drop,” said Ed Shuttleworth, regional president of Ohio Edison and Penn Power, which are subsidiaries of FirstEnergy Corp.
He noted FirstEnergy anticipates many customers will continue to spend more time at home, including working and learning remotely during the winter, so it’s more important than ever that FirstEnergy to deliver safe and reliable power.
One way to do that is to use helicopters.
Helicopter patrols have completed inspections on nearly 10,000 miles of FirstEnergy transmission lines located across Ohio Edison’s service territory this year. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wire, broken cross arms, failed insulators and other hardware problems not visible from the ground.
Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspections can be addressed. Tree trimming throughout the year also helps meet the rigors of winter operations by maintaining proper clearances around electrical systems and helping to protect against tree-related outages caused by the weight of ice and heavy, wet snow on branches.
Ohio Edison’s tree contractors are on track to complete tree trimming along nearly 5,000 circuit miles of electric lines in 2020.
On the ground, equipment inspections include using thermovision cameras to capture infrared images of electrical equipment that can detect potential problems within substations and on power lines that cannot be observed during regular visual inspections.
The infrared technology shows heat on a color scale, with brighter colors or “hot spots” indicating areas that could need repairs. These images can identify equipment issues such as loose connections, corrosion and load imbalances. Utility workers are able to make repairs to prevent potential power outages in the future.
Other utility work being done by Ohio Edison personnel includes inspecting distribution circuits, such as transformers, capacitors, reclosers and lightning arrestors to ensure the equipment is operational and the lines are ready to perform efficiently when demand for electricity increases during the winter, typically due to heating.
Company bucket trucks and other vehicles also are inspected in the fall to help ensure safe operation during the winter. Special emphasis is placed on the condition of tires and air braking systems, which can freeze up if moisture is present. Snow removal equipment is also being checked.
Ohio Edison employees also participated in virtual readiness exercises and drills throughout the year to test the company’s restoration process used to repair winter storm-related power outages. Storm drills are becoming more common in the utility industry in the wake of severe weather over the last several years.
Ohio Edison serves more than 1 million customers across 34 Ohio counties. FirstEnergy’s 10 electric-distribution companies form one of the nation’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving customers in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York.