Penn Power expands smart grid to maintain service

  • October 16, 2023
  • Steve Rogerson

Pennsylvania utility Penn Power has expanded its smart grid in Mercer County to reinforce the local power system and help prevent lengthy service disruptions, especially during severe weather.

The work included the installation of automated equipment and technology in distribution substations and along neighbourhood power lines serving more than 15,000 users in Sharon, Sharpsville, Hermitage, Transfer, Greenville, West Middlesex and nearby areas.

The work is part of FirstEnergy subsidiary Penn Power’s LTIIP II second-phase long-term infrastructure improvement plan, approved by the Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission to help enhance electric services. The company has experienced a 74% decrease in user minutes of interruption related to outages since the installation of smart grid technology along neighbourhood power lines under LTIIP.

“Penn Power has made significant investments in smart grid technologies in recent years, helping enhance our reliability performance and piloting new devices that our sister utilities have since begun to implement successfully within their own service areas,” said Scott Wyman, president of FirstEnergy’s Pennsylvania operations. “The completion of this work ahead of winter is a win-win because it strengthens our electric system and keeps the lights on for customers when they depend on it the most to stay warm and comfortable.”

Hundreds of homes and businesses in the area will benefit from the installation of more than a dozen automated reclosing devices in the substations and along neighbourhood power lines that will help limit the frequency, duration and scope of service interruptions.

These electrical devices work like a circuit breaker in a home that shuts off power when trouble occurs, with the added benefit of automatically reenergising a substation or power line within seconds for certain types of outages to keep power safely flowing.

They are safer and more efficient because they often let utility personnel automatically restore services instead of sending a crew to investigate. They can isolate the outage to that area and limit the total number of affected users if the device senses a more serious issue, such as a fallen tree on electrical equipment. And they can quickly pinpoint the location of the fault and help utility personnel better understand the cause of the outage to help speed restoration.

Automated voltage regulators were also installed to help ensure safe, constant voltage levels along power lines on extremely cold or hot days that create high demand for electricity. In addition to preventing voltage issues, the devices could potentially help provide energy savings by evenly distributing electricity to allow all users served by a single power line to receive the same flow of safe, reliable power.

Lastly, Penn Power workers installed nearly 100 new poles designed to withstand severe winter elements such as high winds, ice, and heavy, wet snow.

This work builds on system upgrades that were completed in recent years across Penn Power’s service area in Mercer County, including the installation of more than 200 automated reclosing devices in rural, tree-filled communities, and the addition of interior fencing in four substations to help deter climbing animals and protect against electrical equipment interference that can cause power outages.

Penn Power ( serves more than 160,000 users in all or parts of Allegheny, Beaver, Butler, Crawford, Lawrence and Mercer counties in western Pennsylvania.

FirstEnergy ( has ten electric distribution companies that form one of the USA’s largest investor-owned electric systems, serving users in Ohio, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, West Virginia, Maryland and New York. The company’s transmission subsidiaries operate approximately 38,600km of transmission lines that connect the mid-west and mid-Atlantic regions.