Power Failure Darkens Hudson Valleys

All on-campus classes scheduled after 4 p.m. were cancelled on Tuesday, Sep. 16, because of a campuswide power failure. Students in dark, clustered hallways and dim computer rooms struggled during the outage, questioning the recent power failures.

“I was in the middle of a paper during class and it just went out. Welcome the the 21st century,” said Mike Floyd, Individual Studies major, in the second level of the Marvin Library.

“I had a panic attack in complete darkness,” said Sara Mroczkowski, Broadcast Communications major, a day after the power surge.

Power surged campuswide around 2:30 p.m., shutting off all power. At 3:23 p.m., campuswide electricity came back for around 30 seconds before shutting back down until 3:27 p.m. Because the generators weren’t functioning properly, they could not handle the surge of power when they are turned back on.

“We knew this was coming,” Richard Edwards, Physical Plant director said, speaking on the power failure.

“One of the problems we had over this last shutdown is a switch that wasn’t operating properly. We had a switch that we thought was open but was actually closed meaning that it wasn’t allowing electricity. The [physical] plant was taking on more of a load than it was making,” Edwards said.

The power outage caused inconveniences for students trying to do important work.

“I was filling out the Common App for transfer before the power went out. I expected it to just come back on like all the other days but after about ten minutes, I saw Public Safety officers all around the library and I figured, ‘this is real,’” said Abdull Aim, CIS major, in the Marvin Library lobby, “I hope the rest of the semester doesn’t look like this.”

“I was typing my final paper and this happened. I noticed it twice today already,” said Jake Willy, Criminal Justice major.

“I had a five page paper due Oct. 2 and then of course, bam, lights are out,” said Zachary Crooks, Liberal Arts major, in the Cyber Cafe.

“I definitely would be frantic right now [if I was working on a final project]. This was the best day to not be an overachiever,” said Ben Gillheiser, Mechanical Engineering major.

“Knowing the reliability of energy lately, you should save your stuff,” said Meghan Clubalt, Fine Arts major. She continued confidently, “I already saved my work like nine times in 30 minutes before the power went off.”

Repairs were made to the malfunctioning generators on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Edwards said on Wednesday, “We were able to get three of the gas [powered] generators back up and running, which is what we are on today, and those are the most stable ones we have now.” The Physical Plant Director added that generators are put under maintenance by Siemens regularly.

Siemens AG, a German multinational engineering and electronics conglomerate is responsible for changing oil, distributing spare parts and engine maintenance of the generators. , A projected $162,700 is planned to be spent on physical plant maintenance. The college signed with Siemens in 2003 following the construction of the self sustaining cogeneration plant. Siemens’ contract with Hudson Valley is expected to expire in 2019.

Edwards is also head of Hudson Valley’s Campus Emergency Response Team. “Our emergency response is to get the college up and running as soon as possible. Siemens is always on call,” he said.

“We could shut down a portion of the campus if we really wanted to. We could shut down a portion of the Campus Center and the Library, keeping the classrooms up and running,” Edwards said. He continued, “Most of the time we don’t [use] that capability because we can usually get the generators right back up and running.”

Backup generators include a 1,350-killowatt natural-gas-powered unit and a 2,250-killowatt diesel-powered unit. Edwards calls the diesel-powered generator the “ultimate backup.” During the power outage, the diesel-powered generator was reported to have broke a piston. “One thing broke and that took down a couple of the other generators,” he said.

Since 2012, 2.2 megawatts are released daily from the generators excluding the summer intersession. In the summer months, energy consumption often reaches three megawatts due to central air conditioning power demand. 1.4 million dollars per year are spent on natural gas at Hudson Valley.

Edwards claims that Higbee Hall and Lang Hall are the least energy efficient buildings on campus. Reportedly, the McDonough Sports Complex consumes the most energy on campus.

Upgrades to the switchgear, cards and voltage regulator systems in the generators are expected be made in December of this year, continuing into the new year.

After upgrades, Edwards expects generators to run efficiently for the next 12 years. He said the programs were scheduled to start in December due to funding and design. The upgrade in December and January is expected to cost $400,000.

The Science Center remains the only building on campus that is powered by National Grid, so it was not affected by the power failure. During the summer, a new installation was added in the Science Center including a National Grid electric feed to “enhance electrical service in the area.”

In August, Edwards said, “The new Science Center load stressed the existing National Grid service so a new feeder was added to improve service to the Science Center and the surrounding area.”

Two backup generators ran a total of 8.01 percent of the college’s energy before methane from a nearby landfill “dried out” in 2012. Methane was produced at the plant by a 3,100-foot pipeline, six feet deep in the ground from a field on the outskirts of campus .The campus ran on a combined 2,945-kilowatts in three primary generators of landfill gas and natural gas.

According to the Physical Plant director, the administration’s main concern right now is the “reliability of the plant.” He stated, “We’re going to be meeting soon to see what our main goal is in the long term scheme of things.”

Over the summer, 30 parking lot lights were replaced new energy efficient LED lights across campus and a new lighting system upgrade was installed in the BTC auditorium.

After power is produced by the campus generators, it goes out on the campus at 13,000 volts. Once the power passes through transformers, it is lowered to 480 or 277 volts depending on demand. Power is transferred at Hudson Valley through nine transformers in “little green boxes” around campus.

The physical plant maintains an estimated total budget of $3,639,606 in natural gas, electricity. Overall maintenance and operation of the physical Plant has been projected to cost $10,382,672, 9.4 percent in the college’s operating budget for the 2014-2015 session.

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