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ComEd improves electric lines in Northbrook to decrease outages

A lineman with MJ Electric, a ComEd contractor, recently installed a new "Hendrix" overhead electric cable in Northbrook.  (Photo courtesy of the Village of Northbrook)

A lineman with MJ Electric, a ComEd contractor, recently installed a new "Hendrix" overhead electric cable in Northbrook. (Photo courtesy of the Village of Northbrook)

Workers are putting the finishing touches on $2 million in improvements to Northbrook’s aging electrical infrastructure, which officials say should help prevent the kind of power outages that plagued the village during storms last summer.

“After the storms of last year, we started discussing how we could make improvements in areas where we saw the worst outages,” said Kelly Hamill, Northbrook’s director of public works. “I don’t think the outages of last year could have been avoided, but I think with the improvements ComEd is putting into place we’re going to see less of an impact when the next storms come.”

He said that ComEd’s contractor, MJ Electric, has completed the installation of almost 10,000 feet of new overhead electric lines, called “Hendrix cables,” which are designed to better withstand punishment from storms. Northbrook’s abundance of trees adds to the aesthetics of the village, but Hamill said they also contribute to electric outages during storms when limbs fall onto power lines, Hamill said.

“People would lose power until someone came and cleared the trees from those wires,” he said. “The new Hendrix cable doesn’t have as big a footprint, so there isn’t as much of the area of the cable exposed for contact, plus it has a protective coating.”

“The Hendrix cable can have trees that come down and land on it and it won’t short out,” he added. “It’s supposed to help prevent outages by 75 percent. It’s definitely an improvement.”

Hamill said that the next steps include switching power from the old lines to the new, transferring the individual residential services to the new power lines, removing the old lines.

` The “mid-circuit recloser,” an automatic switching device that helps to keep outages to the fewest number of customers possible, will be moved to a more strategic location near the downtown in late June or early July.

Hamill said the new mid-circuit reclosers are another aspect of the project designed to allow Com Ed to more efficiently address power outages.

“It allows them to switch how houses are fed electricity,” he said. “If one feeder goes down, it give us the ability to pick up an electrical feed from a second feeder to help minimize the area of the outage.”

“It gives them switching capability to move load around between these feeders to help keep people’s power on and to minimize the people that would have outages,” he explained. “That’s another big improvement with those MCR’s. It’s all automated so it’s not as intensive for their field people.”

ComEd also replaced underground cables in areas prone to repeated outages, increased tree trimming, and is improving the way it communicates with village officials during storms, said Hamill.

“I think that is another positive thing,” he said. “We’re actually seen some change in ComEd and the way they communicate during these storms.”


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