Keeping the Lights On
Over the next two years, there will be power outages on campus as the University replaces and upgrades its electrical infrastructure. Thomas Waltz, Jr., assistant vice president for facilities, says the communication is critical to ensure the entire campus community is aware of pending outages.
“There will be inconveniences,” said Waltz, “but our goal is to mitigate impacts to students, faculty, staff and visitors as much as possible. Everyone expects the electrical infrastructure to work when needed. You flip a light switch and the room is illuminated. There is a lot of infrastructure underground and in the building walls to make this happen. Just like any equipment, with time the infrastructure deteriorates for a number of factors (environmental elements, wear and tear, etc.). The life expectancy of our underground electrical conductors (wires) is 30-40 years. We are on the cusp of this timeline.”
Also, the codes and laws have changed over time requiring more stringent, safer installation methods. This project will bring the existing infrastructure up to current standards. The entire project will cost approximately $15 million and is being managed by the facilities department.
When the project is completed, each major University building will have its own utility meter. Currently the University receives a lump-sum bill from our electrical provider. Once buildings are individually monitored, the University will have the capability to assess loads and develop energy saving initiatives resulting in reduced electrical costs. Each building will also have the capability to be individually isolated, whereas today we would have to secure power to several buildings to work on the one building.
Waltz says the campus community needs to anticipate a lot of outages. The various athletic, conference, academic and event schedules are being incorporated in the contract documents to minimize impact during large events—but there will be impacts. Facilities will communicate the outages as best as possible; however, if one phase takes longer than anticipated, it will impact the sequence.
“We will not be able to avoid impacts,” said Waltz. “When power is secured, buildings will not have lights, HVAC, convenient outlets, etc. The critical life safety (fire alarm systems, emergency lights, etc.) will be supplied via the emergency generators. We will also be making alternate plans if classes need to be rescheduled or relocated.”