PPL Electric Utilities, serving central and eastern Pennsylvania, plans $664 million in capital improvements in 2012 to its electricity delivery system. It’s a nearly 50 percent jump in capital investments over last year as the utility expands efforts to strengthen reliability and address aging infrastructure.

More than 100 local projects are funded to build new substations, upgrade existing facilities, replace older transmission lines and poles, improve distribution circuits, and upgrade technology for improved operations. The transmission network connects with neighboring utilities and moves high-voltage power across the region, while the distribution system provides electricity to local communities and directly serves individual customers.

“We have a long-term comprehensive plan to invest more in our electric delivery system,” said David DeCampli, president of PPL. “This is much-needed work that will reinforce our regional power grid. These projects represent significantly greater investments in the critical infrastructure for Pennsylvania’s economy and will provide hundreds of construction jobs.”

DeCampli said many projects were first identified and prioritized during a study of the utility’s network, covering more than 30 million pieces of equipment. The study evaluated all of the power lines, substations and other key components based on age, condition and performance, noting that an increasing share of equipment is nearing the end of its useful life.

The company will replace 1,000 transmission line poles, 81 substation circuit breakers, and substation transformers that are critical to system reliability. Additionally, the company intends to build new transmission lines and rebuild existing ones. Among them will be three of the company’s oldest power lines.

The company said it also allocated $11 million to install 150 miles of fiber optic lines to connect 32 substations for dedicated communications capability and enhanced operations.

PPL Electric Utilities plans 54 projects on the local distribution systems to improve reliability in certain areas across its service area. Additionally, it has set aside $9 million for improvements on targeted distribution circuits to improve reliability performance.

The utility plans to place seven new substations into service this year to boost power supply and improve service in local areas, along with significant upgrades at five other local facilities. The system maintenance program includes proactive replacement of deteriorating aerial and underground lines, inspection and reinforcement of utility poles and city underground vaults, and helicopter surveys with infrared inspections of transmission facilities.

PPL said it will expand use of advanced meters and mobile computers in the field and improved customer communications systems. The company also is building a new data and operations center.
The utility covers a 29-county service area and operates and maintains large electric delivery system. The work it is planning may provide opportunities for contractors.