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University responds swiftly, successfully to power reduction request


Energy Use Graph With two hours to prepare, the Virginia Tech community was asked to reduce its electrical demand by approximately one third for a four hour period on July 17. As the graph illustrates, the goal was achieved within minutes and sustained throughout the duration of the event.

BLACKSBURG, Va., July 30, 2012 – Once again, the Virginia Tech community demonstrated its commitment to campus sustainability and its ability to respond quickly when called upon to help.

A recent example of the community's ability to respond occurred on July 17 when Virginia Tech was notified by PJM Interconnection, a regional electric grid operator, that a “load reduction emergency event” was to be issued that afternoon. Soaring summer temperatures were contributing to an increased demand on the region’s power grid, creating the potential for brown outs, according to PJM Interconnection.

Within hours, the university mobilized and significantly lowered its power consumption.

“Because of our agreement with PJM Interconnection, Virginia Tech was required to reduce its campus electrical demand to below the 20,000 kilowatt level by 4 p.m. for up to as late as 8 p.m.” explained Campus Energy Manager Fred Selby. “When the call came in at 1:37 p.m., campus demand was approximately 28,500 kilowatts, so we knew that 8,500 kilowatts would need to be shed in about two hours.”

Facilities Services personnel responded immediately and set into motion the university’s response.

“We began reducing air conditioning levels in non-critical areas, sub-cooling the North Chilled Water Plant chilled water supply temperature, starting up some of the campus’ larger backup emergency generators and transferring electrical loads to them, and canvassing buildings to turn off common area and hallway lighting and equipment,” said Selby. “In addition, Virginia Tech News issued a campus-wide email asking students, faculty, and staff to turn off all unnecessary lighting and to power down all non-critical electrical loads.”

Just prior to 4 p.m., the campus electrical load began dropping significantly as demand reduction steps were implemented. Within a couple of minutes after 4 p.m., campus load dipped below the 20,000 kilowatt limit and remained there for the next four hours. The actual demand for the four hour period averaged 19,297 kilowatts.

Facilities Services personnel monitored campus building climate conditions and campus electrical demand over the next four hours. As routine “end-of-shift” load reductions occurred, individual pieces of HVAC equipment were returned to normal operation. When the event ended at 8 p.m., all campus conditions were restored to normal operation.

“During ‘Lights out!/Power down!’ 2012 held June 13, our community successfully demonstrated its ability to reduce energy load consumption with plenty of advanced notice,” said Selby. “On July 17, we demonstrated this again, but this time on very short notice. We are fortunate to have dedicated employees who mobilized quickly, and the response by our community to turn off lights, power down office equipment, and endure warmer-than-normal room conditions in support of our demand reduction obligations, was remarkable.”

For the past three years, Virginia Tech has participated in PJM Interconnection’s “interruptible load reliability” summer demand response program. It requires the university to reduce its electrical demand to below 20,000 kilowatts for a minimum period of one hour, up to 10 times per year, when an emergency condition is declared.

Dedicated to its motto, Ut Prosim (That I May Serve), Virginia Tech takes a hands-on, engaging approach to education, preparing scholars to be leaders in their fields and communities. As the commonwealth’s most comprehensive university and its leading research institution, Virginia Tech offers 240 undergraduate and graduate degree programs to more than 31,000 students and manages a research portfolio of $513 million. The university fulfills its land-grant mission of transforming knowledge to practice through technological leadership and by fueling economic growth and job creation locally, regionally, and across Virginia.