Blackout

Jinae West

Although high winds damaged trees on campus, broke windows in residence halls and left thousands in Portage County without electricity, the university never lost power.

But assistant director of Energy Frank Renovich said in the unlikely event of a power outage, Kent State has a plan.

“There’s approximately 30 smaller emergency generators that will start automatically on campus and provide emergency power to areas of the campus, including computer rooms and specialty rooms,” he said.

While the generators would supply power to the entire campus, Renovich said if an overload of emergency power occurred, residence halls and science buildings conducting experiments would be given top priority.

Last May, a planned power outage took place to ensure the system worked. Renovich said the generators were able to function without the help of utility from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. and deemed the outage successful.

“Of course, we could not provide power to every entity on campus,” he said. “We restricted power consumption on campus so we could operate our units without overloading. For instance, we did not have all of the air conditioners turned on. We did not have all of the lights turned on. We did not have every electrical piece of equipment on, so we curtailed certain loads. You know, shut off lights in buildings that weren’t being used.”

Since starting work at the power plant in February 2007, Renovich said an unplanned power outage has yet to occur.

He said an outage could occur if there was a malfunction of equipment on the incoming power lines.

“If an insulator fails, an accident where maybe a plane hits the voltage towers or maybe even just an overload of circuits could do it,” he said.

Cody Powell, director of building maintenance at Miami University, said the high winds in Oxford damaged electrical lines that severed power with Duke Energy, the university’s local energy provider. Backup generators kicked in for residence and dining halls, a first priority, six hours after the outage occurred. Powell said some of the on-campus buildings such as the ice arena and recreational fitness center did not have power for about two days, as they were deemed not as important.

Renovich assured that Kent State’s power plant has a very robust and reliable power source from Ohio Edison.

“In the event there was an outage on the Ohio Edison circuits, we have of course the emergency generation if it happens immediately, and then we would have to make a decision to start our generation power for the rest of the campus,” he said, explaining that decision would be made by several people at Campus Environment & Operations and the Office of the University Architect.

“We’re always trying to improve it,” Renovich added.

Freshman nursing major Hannah Dodds said she thinks it’s a good idea for the university to have a back-up plan in case of an emergency but wouldn’t mind a day off in lieu of a few back-up generators.

“It sounds like a good plan, but I’d love to have school canceled and not go to my 7:45 a.m. class,” she said.

Emma Corrigan, junior conservation major, agreed it would be nice to skip class but, in an age of ever-present technology, it would be hard to live without electricity.

“For an hour, it’d be fun, but after that it’s like, ‘Uh, I want to watch TV.’ So I’m up with generators. Without power, you’d be forced to talk to people,” she said with a laugh.

A step-by-step process in case of an on-campus power outage

1. Different areas on campus can experience power outages while others do not because on-campus buildings are not supplied electrical power from the same source. But when a power outage does occur, the uninterruptible power systems and, if installed, emergency generator(s) will start to provide temporary power of varying amounts to the buildings in question.

2. The Building Automation and Communications Center will first call the Power Plant to determine if the power outage is a local or global event. Assistance will also be provided by organizations such as Campus Environment & Operations (CE&O), security, etc.

3. If the power outage is a local event, CE&O, Office of the University Architect (OUA) and, depending on severity, contractors will be involved with the repair. For a global event, members of CE&O, OUA and Ohio Edison will be involved.

4. If an extended global power outage is expected, a decision will be made to power campus with the power generating units in the Power Plant. In addition, the electric demand limiting program will be instituted, restricting power consumption on campus and preventing overload on the generators.

Source: Frank Renovich,

assistant director of energy

Contact buildings and grounds reporter Jinae West at [email protected]