Overloaded state: UVA powers down to ease electric grid emergency

news-sun-iUVA powers down in the face of the sun.

A month ago, the University of Virginia conducted an “energy reduction” drill designed to reduce electric loads on its power grid in case of a declaration of an “energy emergency.” Today, the drill became reality.

“Yes, we’ve been informed that there is a real electric grid emergency in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” says Cheryl Gomez, UVA Facilities Management director of energy and utilities around 2pm Wednesday, July 7. “We’re initiating the load reduction plan as we speak.”

However, a spokesperson with Virginia Dominion Power disputes that, saying there is no grid emergency. More on that further down.

Gomez says that University officials received word earlier in the day from PJM Interconnection, an organization that monitors the flow of electricity in the Virginia Dominion Power region, that the current heat wave was causing an energy emergency on the state’s power grid, which could lead to rolling blackouts.

Gomez says it’s the first time the University had to implement the load reduction plan for real, but that during the two-hour drill on June 10, which tested the University’s ability to take loads off-line, they were able to reduce energy consumption by 2.96 megawatts. This time, however, Energy Connect has advised UVA to remain in an energy emergency for at least six hours.

Meanwhile, Gomez says a thermal energy storage tank has been brought on-line, which will offset the energy load by 1 to 2 megawatts, and that they’ve taken the main heating/cooling plant on Massie Road and another near a research facility off-line. The two plants will now run on diesel powered generators until the emergency is over.

Gomez also says that University faculty, students, and administrators have been asked to turn off all lights, computers, monitors, appliances, and any other devices not needed to do business.

If all goes as planned, Gomez expects UVA to take 6 megawatts off the power grid.

However, David Botkins, media relations director for Dominion, says the company wasn't aware of any grid emergency. PJM, he said, could have made the call on its own.

"We haven't broken any records yet," he says, pointing out that the highest usage the company experienced was in August 2007. "There is high demand today, and we are encouraging conservation measures, but no emergency is in effect." He suggested we call UVA Facilities Mangagement director Don Sundgren to confirm.

Sundgren, however, stood behind Gomez's statements.

"We wouldn't implement this on our own," he says.

Updated 7.8.2010 9:24am


Shboom: just did a quick tally.

14 of 14 comments about the 100 mph chase are not deleted.
18 of 21 comments about the power reduction are not deleted.
153 of 155 comments about the latest MH article are not deleted.

That's a 97.4% non-scotch rate on these 3 articles (all of which are ripe with at least mildly controversial comments), which doesn't seem to support your "bending over under pressure from anyone" claim.

correct on the "less emissions," not "no emissions."

my mistake.

Point is still valid, however, that it is cleaner than coal. And that UVa burned more coal because it was cheaper.

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The censors at the Hook are finally getting revved up.

The extreme left hates the First Amendment with a passion.

Didn't study hard enough.

Wonder how much power it will take to pump the third largest river in Albemarle County uphill, from the South Fork Rivanna River to the new expanded Ragged Mt. Reservoir; which is the Rivanna Water and Sewer Authority plan. That's at least 10 miles they plan to pump water uphill at an elevation of 350 feet .

Any guesses what that might cost ?

I work for UVA. We turned off our non-CFL bulbs, shut down a spare computer, turned off various energy vampire devices, and used the opportunity to unplug and defrost our refrigerator.

How nice, given most of their student population is gone. Just what the heck were they cooling there anyway?

How nice, given most of their student population is gone. Just what the heck were they cooling there anyway?

There are thousands of us who work there. Many hundreds (thousands?) of kids there for various summer programs. Hundreds of tourists visit every day. You should visit the west half of town sometime between May and August.

King Ralph, when you start calling folks maggots on message boards, it's time to step away from the computer and have a bourbon. Perhaps take a day and go fishin'...

The dorms are full of kids doing various residential summer programs. Those kids are using classrooms and cafeterias. The place is full of people.

The Hook "moderators" scotch anything they disagree with. And they bend over under pressure from anyone who takes issue with a comment courting even the slightest controversy.

Build more nuclear plants.

Nuclear power is clean power.

Nuclear power is clean power.....

.... until a meltdown like Chernobyl comes along.

The turned off some lights-- also a nice ambience

UVA uses more electricity every year than they did the year before. It goes up and up constantly. The carbon footprint of the endless new building projects is also huge - incalculable, really. They've also recently stopped burning clean natural gas (no emissions) and switched to burning more coal in their coal fired power plant instead. It's cheaper.

That doesn't stop them from claiming they are "sustainable" and "green," of course. It a nutshell, even a small corner of the world such as UVA can show us all how hopeless it is that we will stop man made global warming - if indeed that is what is happening. You don't need to go to China or India and count how many coal plants or cars they are adding every week. Just have a look at just about any US state, county, city, or university.

The expansion of the internet worldwide all by itself will more than offset any minuscule decreases in THE RATE OF INCREASE of power use that anybody here has made.

Yeah, I work at UVA and when I heard about this I made sure to turn on all the power, the lights, computers, put the AC on full blast, and let the water run non stop. Go global warming.

"clean natural gas (no emissions)"

For crying out loud, go read a chemistry book. That statement is an embarrassment to our school system.

Go Nuclear! I want to be just like the French. Moi aussi.

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Okay folks, back on track...the essence of this article is factual, objective reporting of an event that actually occured.

There is nothing here about global warming or nookular power (and I actually believe in both human-caused global warming and in expanded nookular power), just a reduction in power consumption.

I think it's kinda nice that a large organization was able to respond and reduce its power draw for the benefit of our region. Also, it seems that the folks at the electric company know how much power is typically needed for an average day (shows some sort of planning skill) and can make/ask for arrangements when something goes awry (shows some sort of contigency planning).

Sean, your comment was way off topic, which is my guess as to why your comment was struck. Read the yellow box under the "Submit Comment" button.

Also, I think that First Amendment freedom of speech protects the citizens from certain (but not all) speech-restricting actions by the federal government. The First Amendment is silent as to the protections owed by The Hook to its commenters.

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READ: People say the darndest things, but language stronger than "darn," insulting words like "stupid," ethnically or racially disparaging language, and comparing people to Hitler usually results in deletion of the comment and may get you blocked from further commenting. Ditto for posting unverified and/or potentially libelous allegations, and even off-topic digression. And to avoid spam, any comment containing more than two weblinks gets eaten by Bigfoot.

"...turn off all lights, computers, monitors, appliances, and any other devices not needed to do business."

It's about time. Fully lit rooms with computers running all year round, and no one entering the rooms.