Company continues investigation to improve service

TOWANDA – Utility company Penelec has been working to improve reliability of service following two power outages in one week, according to a press release sent by Jody Place, external affairs manager for Penelec.

“The entire length of the line was inspected May 15 via helicopter patrol and specialized thermal imaging equipment. No significant issues were observed,” Place wrote in a press release.

The 115 kilovolt transmission line extends from East Towanda to Farmers Valley. Penelec is investigating operational issues that could have led to the outages, including the possibility that the disruption was caused by malfunctioning equipment owned by large customers served from the transmission line, according to the Penelec press release.

On May 8, a fault on customer-owned equipment caused the line to go out of service, leaving 16,474 Penelec customers, 2,823 West Penn Power customers and additional Penelec Rural Electric Cooperatives delivery points without power, according to Place.

“At the time of the fault, the back-up circuit was not available due to work being done to accommodate system upgrades,” Place wrote in a press release.

On May 14, another outage caused by a switch failure left even more customers without power.

“A switch failure is when the electrical equipment designed to switch from one circuit to another malfunctions. It’s unfortunate that it happened but it’s something that we can repair to make sure it doesn’t repeat,” Mark Durbin, manager of utility communications for First Energy, Penelec’s parent company, said.

Durbin said that when it comes to predicting power outages, there’s no average frequency.

“We obviously don’t like to have any of them. In this case, there were two in fairly close proximity, but we have plans to mitigate that by continuing to make our system as robust as we can,” Durbin said.

Penelec plans to build a new transmission substation east of Mansfield by summer 2014. The utility also plans to upgrade that Penelec Farmers Valley substation by summer 2015.

“Right now the service is pretty good but by improving these two substations we’ll make it even better,” Durbin said.

Should customers find themselves without power, Durbin suggested they call their utility and let them know that they’re experiencing a disruption.

“Sometimes customers think that a neighbor will call but sometimes they’re the only one with disrupted service,” Durbin said.

Durbin added that from an overall emergency preparedness standpoint, customers should always be prepared for any type of outage, especially as storm season approaches. Additional information on what to do in the case of an outage is available on the First Energy website.

“We apologize to our customers for any inconvenience these outages might have caused. We are working to try to make it better,” Durbin said.