Building Infrastructure that Withstands the Elements
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Building Infrastructure that Withstands the Elements

For southern New Jersey residents, storm season means concerns about the lights staying on – and if they go out, how long the lights will be out. High winds and hurricanes, in the past, have devastated the region and the electrical grid, leaving many without power for days. During Superstorm Sandy in October 2012, recorded wind gusts of 88 mph resulted in more than 437,000 customers experiencing an outage. Two days after Sandy’s landfall and after conditions safely permitted, more than 1,200 employees began restoring those that lost power. Many customers were successfully restored within eight days, but nearly 3,000 customers continued to be without power for several more days due to extensive damage.

As a result, we knew we needed to better prepare the system for these types of storms. Tyler Anthony, Senior Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of Pepco Holdings, said:

One of the things that is extremely important is to ensure that we are prepared for storms by investing in our infrastructure to enhance reliability.

After a hard look at operations and infrastructure needs, key issue areas were identified. “A lot of our system, including our transmission lines, were dependent on wooden poles,” said Amber Young, Manager - Engineering for Atlantic City Electric and Delmarva Power Transmission Planning. Wooden poles were not able to withstand the increasingly strong storms that hit our communities, so we began implementing updates. “To make our grid more resistant to high winds and the storms that hit our region, we have been working on numerous projects to replace these wooden poles with more resilient infrastructure, including steel poles,” Young said. As a result, 2,368 wooden poles have been replaced over the last five years.

Photo of overhead infrastructure

Preparing infrastructure to withstand storm season has been critical to our enhanced reliability – and, the infrastructure enhancements have already started to make a difference. In 2016, customers experienced 33 percent fewer outages and the duration of outages decreased by 35 percent compared to 2011. “This shows how important it is to have the assets to invest in our systems – it allows us to not only maintain and enhance current performance, but to also build new technology into the system,” Anthony said.

This progress doesn’t happen by mistake, it was a deliberate and collaborative effort to enhance the region’s electrical grid and infrastructure. These long-term investments have been amplified by working with the Exelon family of companies. “We have had the opportunity to hear first-hand what’s working for our sister utilities, and then modify and apply those learnings here,” said Anthony.

In addition to best practices, we also share crews and resources. We are much more effective in serving customers when there is a partner nearby that can lend a hand (or 100) in the event of a storm.

With new infrastructure projects on the horizon, including the recently approved grid resiliency program, called PowerAhead, we are resolute in continuing to enhance our service. The PowerAhead program will invest $79 million in resiliency-related improvements over the next five years to modernize and strengthen our system.