FirstEnergy Corp. will build a $45 million transmission control center at its West Akron campus, replacing an existing center in Wadsworth Township.
The Akron-based electric utility announced plans Tuesday to construct what it’s calling a “state-of-the-art and environmentally friendly transmission control center” in Akron. The highly secure facility will be built off the Mull Avenue entrance to the company’s 150-acre campus that already houses an Ohio Edison service center, a FirstEnergy call center and a large office building and several company subsidiaries.
“As a company, we’ve grown bigger,” FirstEnergy spokesman Mark Durbin said. “As we continue to look at our plans, we needed some additional space in the future. It made more sense to be grouped together in Akron.”
At the centers, transmission system operators monitor current transmission needs for FirstEnergy utilities and anticipate changes to the transmission system if a facility suddenly drops out of supply, said Carl Bridenbaugh, vice president of transmission for FirstEnergy.
Transmission systems are the high-powered, high-altitude lines that carry electricity to the service areas.
Currently, FirstEnergy has three transmission control centers — in Wadsworth Township; Fairmont, W.Va.; and Reading, Pa. The utility previously decided to consolidate some of the centers and transfer the system operators from Reading to Ohio, Bridenbaugh said.
Durbin estimated that 13 of the highly skilled staffers will be moving to the Akron area.
It is unknown when the Reading facility will close.
Other Akron-based companies are involved in building the 70,000-square-foot facility.
The center is being designed by Braun & Steidl Architects of Akron; GPD of Akron is providing electrical/ mechanical engineering services; and Thorson Baker & Associates of Richfield is doing site development and structural engineering. Fairlawn-based Welty Building Co., which served as the construction manager for the West Akron campus, will be construction manager.
FirstEnergy hopes to complete the center by the end of 2013. The company is hoping to go for the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification. If approved, it would be FirstEnergy’s third major facility with the certification.
The Wadsworth Township center will remain with a skeleton crew as a backup and training facility. The majority of the 112 employees there will transfer to the new building.
The job of a transmission system operator is a highly skilled one, requiring a two-year technical degree and experience in operating in a generating plant or distribution system or transmission operations, Bridenbaugh said. FirstEnergy will hire about 20 operators this year for the facility and 10 to 15 next year, he said.
Transmission operators were not affected in recent layoffs at the utility. Earlier this month, FirstEnergy said it had laid off 142 employees, including 56 in the Akron area, and that the company would be expecting further reductions in 2013 through attrition.
The number of positions expected to be eliminated through attrition is 300 to 400.
In Akron, the cuts were at FirstEnergy headquarters downtown and at the West Akron facility. The cuts were in shared services, also considered support services, such as communications, information technology and supply chain and included some managers.
Betty Lin-Fisher can be reached at 330-996-3724 or firstname.lastname@example.org.