JCP&L Reports It Can Keep Its Cool, Even on New Jersey’s Hottest Summer Days

State's second-largest utility improvements and upgrades include helicopter flyovers to spot infrastructure problems

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Jersey Central Power & Light says it is ready for the summer season, a time when higher electricity demand puts the largest strain on its system.

The state’s second-largest electric utility with more than 1 million customers announced yesterday it has completed numerous projects and inspections across its 13-county service area aimed at improving the resiliency of its infrastructure.

The utility, often criticized by regulators, local officials, and customers over widespread power outages lasting up to two weeks, has ramped up spending in recent years to increase the reliability of its system. This year, it plans to spend $267 million, up from $250 million the previous year and the approximately $200 million it spent three years ago.

The recently completed work includes upgrading transmission and substation equipment, improving circuits and modernizing distribution equipment, and trimming trees along 1,500 miles of distribution and transmission lines. JCP&L, with most of its territory located in leafy suburbs, is beset by outages when falling trees and limbs take down power lines.

“Targeting the completion of significant enhancements, upgrades, and repairs each year prior to the start of the summer season provides a robust electrical system and delivers quality service,’’ said James Fakult, president of JCP&L, a subsidiary of FirstEnergy Corp., which is based in Akron, OH.

[related]“The projects we have completed increase the reliability and flexibility of our systems as the summer season arrives and customers use more electricity, he added.’’

Most of the improvements involve upgrading lines to increase transmission capacity in Morris, Warren, Hunterdon, Monmouth, and Ocean counties.

Cost-effective helicopter patrols are completing inspections on more than 757 miles of transmission lines located in the JCP&L area. The inspections are designed to look for damaged wires, broken cross-arms, failed insulators, and other problems not easily detected. Any potential reliability issues identified during the inspection will be addressed immediately, according to the utility.

On the ground, the summer readiness inspections include using “thermovision’’ cameras to capture infrared images that can detect problems with JCP&L substation equipment such as transformers and capacitors. By identifying hot spots, maintenance and repairs can be conducted prior to a power outage occurring, according to the utility

Earlier this year, JCP&L had its annual revenue decreased by $115 million in a rate case decided by the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities. The state agency also has asked its staff to look into key areas concerning how the utility conducts its operations, finances, and customer service.