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June 23 electrical load test plays crucial role in preventing blackouts

June 6, 2016

 From 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, June 23, Penn State will again test University Park’s capability to reduce its electricity load when called upon during national or regional power emergencies. This is the ninth year the University has performed this test. Last year’s test reduced the power load by 10MW, or about 31 percent. University Park occupants are requested to turn off all unnecessary electrical consumption under individual control.

The Office of Physical Plant (OPP) will work behind the scenes to reduce the overall electrical load remotely during this one-hour test. However, all University employees and students are requested to turn off all unnecessary lighting, office equipment, coffee pots, dehumidifiers and air conditioning. University offices should stay open and operate in a normal manner while reducing their consumption of electricity.

Green Team members can help promote the reduction with creative solutions. Last year, one team passed out ice pops to workers to help keep them cool when the building temperature rose, and another team arranged a walking meeting to the Creamery. Other ideas include scheduling an outdoor staff meeting during the hour, so that all computers are shut down, or scheduling an indoor meeting in one room, so that lights in all the other rooms can be turned off.

Green Teams could also hold scavenger hunts to identify small appliances/electronics that are plugged in and consuming power even when they are turned off — such as individual printers, chargers, coffee pots with timers, microwaves, etc.

This test event is part of an Emergency DR (Demand Response) program in which participating institutions pledge to reduce their electrical energy use by a specified amount during high use periods of time. The objective of the program is to protect the day-to-day reliability of the regional grid upon which our campus relies. This reliability is important for utility companies because it helps them avoid a blackout. If successful, the University will receive compensation proportional to the load drop, and those funds will be used to support additional energy conservation projects. 

 All employees are urged to do their part. Employees may notice that some indoor temperatures in non-critical spaces will be adjusted by 4 degrees to lower air conditioning loads. Other spaces may have their heating, ventilation and air conditioning equipment operation schedule changed to the “unoccupied” setting. Most other initiatives will be transparent to employees. The test will not cause any extended outages or major disruption of normal electrical services. All safety lighting and equipment is exempt and should remain on throughout the test.

Employees are empowered to reduce lighting in public spaces. This includes all empty classrooms, corridors and hallways where lower light settings are available. Corridors and hallways in most University Park Campus buildings are designed with lights that operate 24/7 which are connected to emergency power in case of normal power failure. These lights should illuminate the public spaces well enough to meet code requirements. Please contact OPP prior to the test if you have any questions concerning a particular space.

Here are recommended actions to take during the test:
— Shut off all office equipment and lights that are not needed (computers, monitors, printers, copiers, coffee makers and task lighting)
— Unplug iPod, digital camera and cellphone chargers not in use
— Keep exterior doors closed in air-conditioned buildings. Make sure operable windows are also closed
— Personal space heaters should not be used to compensate for excessive air conditioning and are not permitted in University buildings unless provided by OPP for extraordinary circumstances

Everyone is asked to cooperate by turning off all unnecessary electrical loads during this one-hour test. For specific further information, contact Mike Prinkey at 814-863-4091 or Alex Novak at 814-863-0432.

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