AEP addresses area power outages
By LENNY C. LEPOLA
News Assistant Managing Editor
Sunbury and Galena area AEP customers have been experiencing what they consider to be more than their fair share of power outages over the past several years. Those outages also impact the Sunbury and Galena wastewater treatment plants, both villages’ administration operations, and are an inconvenience for local business owners.
The outages are in an area serviced by AEP’s electric distribution circuit coming out of the substation on the east side of Sunbury at the village limits where Ohio 37 exits the village. AEP’s designation for the substation is Sunbury 49; there are four circuits served by Sunbury 49. Of the four, 49–02 covers the most area; and customers in the 49–02 service area are experiencing more outages than customers in service areas 49–01, 49–03 and 49–04.
Because of repeated complaints to village council members and administrators, Sunbury Village Administrator Dave Martin contacted AEP Community Affairs Manager Renee Shumate, and asked Shumate if she recruit someone from the AEP Engineering Department to attend a public meeting to explain what causes the outages, and what plans, if any, are in the works for correcting the situation.
Last Wednesday (October 10) Shumate and Ron Winrod, AEP Manager of Distribution Systems, Columbus District, attended a public meeting in Sunbury Town Hall Council Chambers.
In addition to Martin, also present were Sunbury Mayor Tommy Hatfield and Sunbury council members Tom Zalewski, Dave Miller and Bill Metzler. In chambers representing Galena were Galena’s Interim Village Administrator and Assistant Public Service Director Jeanna Burrell, and Galena Fiscal Officer Marty Mazzie.
Winrod, who has worked for American Electric Power throughout the state since 1977, gave a brief overview of AEP’s Sunbury 49 asset programs that includes inspection and maintenance cycles; and additional programs in the Sunbury 49 substation service area, including cable replacement (above and under ground) vegetation management, and an ongoing capacity increase project.
Winrod also explained the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio Rule 11 – a.k.a. worst performing circuit mitigation.
Each year PUCO places the 8 percent worst functioning AEP circuits on the Rule 11 list, Winrod said; AEP then determines what the problem is with each circuit – trees or equipment – and fixes the problem.
“If a circuit is on the Rule 11 list, PUCO says they don’t want to see it on the list next year,” Winrod said. “Of the four circuits on Sunbury 49, 49–02 isn’t the best performing circuit we have out there. It’s a problem circuit because its service area is so large.”
Using October 1 to October 1 for data totals, Winrod said in 2010 Sunbury 49–02 had 22 power outages. In 2011 that number jumped to 35 and the circuit was place on PUCO’s Rule 11 List. AEP began servicing identifiable problems within the circuit and from October 1, 2011, to October 1 of this year the 49–02 circuit has experienced only 14 outages – the last one on August 6 lasted 211 minutes.
“We’ve had an almost 50 percent improvement in the 49–2 service area from 2011 to 2012,” Winrod said, noting specific inspection and maintenance work in the 49–02 service area over the past three years.
As part of AEP’s Asset Improvement Study, Winrod said that the load on 49–02 might be reduced by moving part of the 49–02 service area to Genoa Station’s 39–01 circuit.
“We’re looking at expanding Genoa 39–01 into the area to improve reliability,” Winrod said. “But it would take six to eight months to complete studies to move some of 49–02 to Genoa 39–01.”
Winrod said new technology coming online would also improve AEP’s electric service in the area. Grid Smart software will make it easier and faster to locate problems in the distribution network, and large-scale battery storage would continue to deliver power when equipment fails.
“With battery storage, you will never even know you had a power outage,” Winrod said. “And the Vassell Substation being built just east of Sunbury will strengthen transmission to the Trent Station and will help this area in the long run.”
Why not bury all electric lines to eliminate storm damage outages? Winrod said it costs a million dollars a mile to bury lines. In newer residential subdivisions developers add the cost of buried electric service lines to lot costs so overhead customers don’t end up paying for underground service they are not benefiting from.
In closing the session, Winrod said AEP could mitigate 70 percent of power outage causes by doing regular maintenance.
“I don’t want any of you sitting in the dark, but we don’t guarantee service 24/7,” Winrod said. “We do care, but we can only do so much. We can’t keep power on 100 percent of the time, but we do our best.”