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Penn State test reduces demand on the regional electrical grid by 40 percent

June 29, 2017

Penn State’s annual test of University Park’s ability to reduce its demand on the regional electrical grid was once again a success with an impressive 40 percent reduction on June 22. Between 4 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, while University employees and students were encouraged to shut off their lights and office equipment. Central electricity metering during the test hour averaged 23.7 megawatts (compared to its peak usage of 39.7 that day).

The Emergency DR (Demand Response) program demonstrates the University’s capability to reduce its demand on the grid during a regional power emergency. Penn State has committed to being able to reduce its load to 28MW if necessary to avoid a blackout. Upon success, Penn State receives compensation proportional to the load drop, and those funds are used to support additional energy conservation projects. In 2016, the University spent $15.4 million on electricity for the University Park campus.

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 current $2.7 billion capital plan was directed to retrofitting and renovating infrastructure. Between 2003 and 2013, 49 energy-saving projects were implemented at a cost of $62.2 million. To date, these projects have saved energy valued at $63.5 million, and are expected to save another $47.6 million over the next 10 years.

For more information on the University’s conservation efforts, visit

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