Overloaded state: UVA powers down to ease electric grid emergency
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