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FirstEnergy Corp, a leading electric utility based in Akron, Ohio, is expanding its West Akron campus with a brand new 88,000 square-foot training facility. The bold move will create a center which will evaluate, train, and test their staff for the new digital grid tech. This $37 million Center for Advanced Energy Technology aims to get the nod of the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED). Certification will be awarded to those who have efficient and sustainable cost-saving project.

FirstEnergy Corp is one of the largest energy producers in the country. Even with the upcoming closure of its coal-fired Pleasants Power Station in Willow Island, West Virginia, the company will still control 14,795 Megawatts (MW) of power generation from coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewables.

Real-Life Simulation Based Training

The center is just one of FirstEnergy’s projects to promote clean and smart energy. Once the center is in place, the company will lead the way in modernizing the electric grid over a large area. In fact, it will encompass six states including Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Ohio, Maryland, New Jersey, and New York.

The tech will try to simulate actual real-world scenarios that will give technicians and engineers a more hands-on environment when handling the power grid — especially when maintaining and upgrading the systems in place. Simulation training is more common in the use of new equipment and in other high tech industries, where there is a prohibitive cost for using existing equipment for training.

The center essentially belongs to the company’s initiative of “Energizing the Future”. The goal of the program is to upgrade transmission facilities by providing advanced equipment and modern technology that will reinforce the grid. It also aims to reduce significantly the duration and frequency of experienced power outages.

Better Equipped to Train More People

Carl Bridenbaugh, the Transmission Vice President, said the center would directly support the company’s effects in building and designing infrastructure for smart energy. They will be tasked with replacing the old, mechanical devices of the past and update it to the new digital devices across the entirety of the system. These new devices remotely monitored, which can help them react to real-time situations for anything that may happen to the electric grid. They can better serve their customer if they have a facility that can help them evaluate and test technologies that will be used in a real-world simulation. This can ensure that they can deliver a steady flow of energy 24/7.

The facility’s classrooms can train up to 50 people at a time. They will be teaching new grid technologies like digital-relay devices that can then be used to identify the location of equipment failure without having to be on-site. With this, employees will be able to evaluate and test any equipment that can be used and check whether it follows the industry standards including those for cyber security.

Investing in Future Technology

Since 2014, FirstEnergy has upgraded and replaced transmission lines as well as incorporated new, smart technology into the grid. Additionally, they have outfitted their substations with new equipment as well as placed enhanced security features. The company said these upgrades have significant improved the performance of FirstEnergy’s transmission system.

In a recent news release, FirstEnergy said it has earmarked $775 million to invest in distribution, transmission and infrastructure projects this 2018. The investments aim to boost the reliability of its service in the Ohio Edison, Toledo Edison and Penn Power areas.

FirstEnergy has 10 regulated distribution companies which form one of the largest investor-owned electric systems. They serve six million customers in the Midwest and Mid-Atlantic regions.

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