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Penn State drops a load during energy test

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June 23, 2014

University Park reduced a whopping third of its electricity usage during the annual test of load reduction June 19. Between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m., Penn State's Office of Physical Plant worked behind the scenes remotely to power down as many pumps, fans, compressors and lights as possible. University employees and students were encouraged to shut off their lights and office equipment. Central electricity metering during the test hour averaged 21 megawatts (compared to an average of 35MW to up to 45MW on a hot day). That drop is equivalent to the energy usage of 10,000 to 15,0000 average U.S. homes.

The Emergency DR (Demand Response) program demonstrates the University's capability to reduce its usage during a regional power emergency. Penn State has committed to being able to reduce its load to 28 megawatts if necessary to avoid a blackout. It has reached as low as 24MW in previous test, but Thursday's reduction to 21MW was the University's best performance ever.

While these reductions are a test for emergency conditions, the Office of Physical Plant is constantly improving campus energy efficiency to reduce overall usage. More than half of Penn State's $2.7 billion capital plan will be directed to retrofitting and renovating infrastructure, and a specific investment of $60 million has been dedicated to energy savings programs over the next five years. 

Penn State plans to improve its overall energy utilization by 20 percent over the next 10 years.

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