FAIRMONT — Mon Power, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., plans to spend about $60 million in 2013 on upkeep and improvements to the electrical system in its 34-county service area, mostly in North Central West Virginia.
The company will spend $11 million to provide electrical service to new residential and commercial customers in the area, according to FirstEnergy spokesman Todd Meyers.
“We’re always talking with our customers and trying to figure out what their plans for expansion might be,” he said.
For some industrial or large commercial customers, the company needs a year lead time to prepare new power connections.
More than $3 million will go to inspecting and replacing distribution poles in the MonPower service area.
Inspection is an ongoing process, according to Meyers.
“We’re on a 12-year cycle and it’s like painting a battleship,” he said.
More than $1.1 million will go to replacing electrical equipment identified during routine inspections of the transmission system.
Inspections typically take place before winter and before summer, when outages are likely to take place, according to Meyers.
MonPower plans improvements to substations as well.
The company is installing a second transformer at the Miracle Run Substation at a cost of more than $3 million and replacing equipment at the Weirton Substation at a cost of more than $700,000.
Improvements at large substations can improve power reliability in other areas, according to Meyers.
“Think of the grid as a big machine,” he said. “It’s all interconnected.”
Many of the projects are routine efforts to prevent power outages, according to Meyers.
He said he received several questions after the summer derecho and Superstorm Sandy about whether FirstEnergy trims trees, which can make contact with power lines and cause outages.
“We do it year-round,” he said.
The company has plans to trim trees in Clarksburg, Elkins, Fairmont, Kingwood, Lewisburg, Morgantown and Parkersburg, according to Meyers.
Tree trimming contractor crews also will approach property owners about storm-related tree damage that could cause outages.
Clarksburg fire department shift lieutenant Patrick Sanjulian said he noticed MonPower’s contract employees were on the scene immediately after Superstorm Sandy to restore power and reduce tree damage.
“They immediately started,” he said. “It took a long time to get everybody up and running.”
The fire department hasn’t had to deal with Sandy-related tree damage getting into power lines for months, according to Sanjulian.
The investments are typical expenditures for MonPower, according to Meyers.
The company spent a combined $130 million on similar work in 2011 and 2012, he said.
Staff writer Erin Beck can be reached at (304)626-1439 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.