PHILADELPHIA, May 28, 2003 — PECO Energy has completed the largest improvement project on Philadelphia’s Center City underground electric network in nearly 40 years, keyed to system reinforcement and ensuring summer reliability.
PECO said it invested $3.8 million in new underground cable and associated circuit switchgear in the Rittenhouse Square, Fitler Square, and Old City areas, in addition to the replacement of 13 vacuum circuit breakers in the Center City network that will greatly enhance how the system operates and enhance service reliability for customers. These projects are part of roughly $68 million allocated for capital improvements in Philadelphia this year.
The vacuum circuit breakers are advanced switching devices that improve how operators can remotely reconfigure the power flow on the underground distribution circuits for maintenance and repairs. The devices help localize cable faults when they occur and limit sustained interruptions due to damage to the cables.
In Center City and elsewhere throughout the city, PECO will install “reclosers,” or electronic smart switches, on 52 aerial distribution circuits to automatically activate when trouble occurs due to weather, animal contact, vehicle accidents, equipment failures or other reasons, which will minimize the impact of a fault to a small section of a circuit, resulting only in momentary outages for most customers affected.
PECO crews also are actively working on an unprecedented project that entails expansion of eight power substations, including four in the city, and construction of new transmission lines along a 34-mile utility corridor from Falls Township in lower Bucks County to the city’s Richmond section. The $50 million two-year project allows connection to a new electric generating plant being built by Dominion Energy at the U.S. Steel complex.
Looking forward to the year’s peak season for electric demand, Mike Innocenzo, PECO operations director for Philadelphia, said PECO’s distribution system has been well tested after last summer’s record demand for electricity. Spurred by extreme heat, consumers set 16 of the top 20 demand peaks on record last summer, including a new all-time high. Innocenzo said regional field crews and engineers are getting the system ready to ensure PECO can deliver when customers need power most.
“Each year,” said Innocenzo, “we re-invest in the system to ensure we have sufficient power capacity to serve our customer needs, and we perform extensive preventive maintenance to provide even more reliable electric service. Our goal in Philadelphia is to keep the lights on, respond quickly when problems occur, and communicate effectively with our customers.
“Thanks to the extraordinary work done by our crews during the last several months, many times under extremely poor weather conditions, we are well on our way to achieving our goal for the summer of 2003,” he said.
Innocenzo said the preventive maintenance activities include patrols of all of the city’s aerial electric lines using infrared cameras, which should be completed by mid-June, as well as routine inspections of equipment at power substations and in underground manholes. Tree trimming work is ongoing in the Far Northeast neighborhoods surrounding the company’s Byberry substation, too.
Additional cable reliability replacements were completed at substations in the Southwark and Island Road areas of Southwest Philadelphia, as well as in portions of the Port Richmond and Fishtown sections of the city. Work also is underway on a major new substation that will provide additional power capacity for portions of Center City, Spring Garden, Kensington, and Richmond. This nearly $20 million project on North Delaware Avenue is expected to be completed next year.
Earlier this month, during a national broadcast of the Sixers-Pistons NBA playoff game, the lights went out for twenty minutes at The Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. One of PECO’s reliability projects this spring avoided such a high-profile calamity, Innocenzo said.
The loss of power halted the May 6 game and left an arena with thousands of fans in the dark. It could have happened anywhere, but it didn’t occur here. Within the same week, a PECO team responded quickly when a failure occurred on one of the underground cables dedicated to feed the First Union Center in South Philadelphia. What was a momentary outage between Sixers and Flyers games set in motion a rapid cable replacement during a narrow, three- day window so the recent basketball and hockey playoffs could continue, uninterrupted.
Besides reliability enhancement work, PECO’s busy springtime schedule involves numerous system reinforcement and preventive maintenance activities, as well as projects to boost capacity and provide enhanced service to local areas. For instance, capacity was significantly expanded at substations located near 23rd and Lombard Sts., 3rd and Arch Sts., and 2nd and Chestnut Sts.
Extensive work to relieve overloads and provide enhanced reliability also was performed at two of the city’s major health care facilities – Temple University Hospital and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. At Temple, upgrades to the supply lines to the hospital were completed that will ensure better power quality and service during the heat of summer.
Still another key component to the springtime task for the Philadelphia Region was working with area businesses to design the most cost-efficient electric service. Such projects are underway at a U.S. Post Office site at Suffolk and Lindberg Sts., the new Quartermaster Plaza Shopping Center at 21st St. and Oregon Ave., and an apartment development at 15th and Chestnut Sts.
Based in Philadelphia, PECO Energy is an electric and natural gas utility serving southeastern Pennsylvania. PECO and its Chicago-based sister company, ComEd, are subsidiaries of Exelon (NYSE:EXC) , a $15 billion leader in the energy industry. PECO delivered 36.5 million megawatt hours of electricity and 85 billion cubic feet of natural gas to customers, generating $4.3 billion in revenue in 2002. An active corporate citizen, PECO contributed $10 million in 2002 to non-profit organizations, events and programs that improve the quality of life in the region. PECO serves 1.5 million electric and 450,000 natural gas customers in southeastern Pennsylvania.