June 17, 2011 — The University of Virginia will reduce the electricity it draws from the power grid for one hour on Tuesday.
From 2 to 3 p.m., the University will switch some of its operations to generators and also seek to reduce demand. The goal is to reduce its draw by about six megawatts, which represents about 11 percent of the University's electric use.
This is part of the University's participation in the Demand Response Program, sponsored by Virginia's Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy. It was designed as a practice run of energy reduction, so that in case of an energy emergency U.Va. will be prepared to reduce its consumption from electric utilities.
An energy emergency could be declared if heavy use of the electric generating and transmission system threatens to cause outages, such as on a very hot summer day when everyone with an air conditioner is using it.
"Historically, 'emergency' has meant loss of power," said Edward Martin, systems development and integration manager for Facilities Management. "However, given the interconnectivity of the electric grid, that definition has been expanded to include a declared emergency in the grid which includes the risk of a loss of power in a section of the grid that may be quite remote from U.Va."
In a similar exercise last year, the University reduced its draw from the electric grid by 2.96 megawatts.
"We have increased our goal to six megawatts to garner greater electricity savings and do our part to reduce electric usage during peak demand," Nina Morris, Facilities Management's sustainability outreach coordinator, said. "We have developed a larger plan than last year by looking at a wider range of systems that we can either power down or switch over to generators. And as the U.Va. community is now more familiar with the program, we anticipate higher participation in powering down electronics."
Martin said seven emergency generators will be used for the drill this year. These are the generators at the North Grounds Mechanical Plant, the Massie Road Heating and Cooling Plant, Clark Hall, Medical Research Building 5, Medical Research Building 6 and two at the main heating plant.
No University functions will be closed down, but employees are asked to reduce their consumption of electricity at work as much as possible.
"We're asking people to turn off any lights and appliances, such as printers, that aren't necessary to their work," Morris said. "We want people to be more conscious of their energy consumption for that hour."
The Demand Response Program was created by a 2007 executive order from then-Virginia Gov. Timothy M. Kaine and has since been extended.