FirstEnergy Corp. has started another project to expand electric power infrastructure in the Appalachian Basin to serve the region’s shale development, announcing Wednesday that crews were at work raising steel structures and pouring concrete foundations for a $40 million project in Southwest Pennsylvania.

The substation under construction in Washington County’s Smith Township will support two natural gas processing facilities in the area that are expected to use enough electricity annually to power 100,000 homes.

“This project also will benefit existing customers by providing additional capacity and voltage support to our regional transmission network, especially commercial and industrial customers using specialized equipment sensitive to voltage fluctuations,” said FirstEnergy’s David McDonald, regional president of subsidiary West Penn Power. More than 40,000 West Penn Power customers are expected to benefit.

A transmission line to connect the substation to an existing transmission line would also be built. The project includes installing specialized voltage-regulating equipment designed to respond to real-time electrical conditions. The equipment would boost or reduce voltage as needed to maintain consistent levels on the regional transmission network.

That work includes installing a modular control building and two large transformers that weigh nearly 280,000 pounds each. Part of the project is expected to be operational by the end of the year, while the specialized voltage equipment is scheduled to enter service in 2017.

The project is part of FirstEnergy’s plans to invest more than $200 million this year in the West Penn Power area to enhance service reliability. West Penn Power, one of FirstEnergy’s 10 electric distribution companies operating across six states, serves about 720,000 customers in 24 Pennsylvania counties. FirstEnergy has spent millions in recent years to expand electrical infrastructure to serve shale development, recently completing projects in Ohio and West Virginia (see Shale Daily, April 28; Jan. 5, 2015).