Campus power system upgrades

To: UCSC Community

From: Sarah Latham, vice chancellor for Business and Administrative Services

As many of you know, Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has had three unplanned outages in the last week that have left the UC Santa Cruz main campus without power. These most recent outages follow other power interruptions that have impacted our campus. This is tremendously disruptive to teaching, research, studying and overall campus operations. Outages have a negative impact on all of our ability to support the mission of our campus, as utility stability is crucial to a major research university.

Last summer, UC Santa Cruz finished work on a new cogeneration plant. This was one of many utility projects completed over the last few years as part of our "Next Generation 2020 Electrical Master Plan," which was developed in 2008. The goals of the plan and the included projects are reliability, sustainability, and capacity.

During normal operations, the cogen allows us to reduce our reliance on PG&E's power and produces heat that can be used by the campus core buildings. During PG&E outages, it is able to provide power to key campus facilities. However, in the midst of the new cogeneration plant's installation, PG&E put in place operational requirements that did not allow us to use the facility in the original way designed, which was to have a seamless power transition for key campus areas.

To address this gap, Physical Planning and Construction is now in the midst of a cogen optimization project that will provide uninterrupted power to buildings on Science Hill, even when PG&E's service cuts out. We are expecting this project to be complete by fall 2017.

The cogen is staffed 24 hours a day. Currently, the loss of PG&E power causes our plant to go offline, requiring staff in Physical Plant to turn it back on. This is a process that under the best circumstances takes about a half hour and can take longer depending on when an outage occurs.

The campus conducted a planned outage last month that was an important step toward fine-tuning the cogeneration plant settings so that we can maintain power to key facilities. We approached this testing project cautiously, expecting that the campus power disruption would be more significant than users ended up experiencing. Information gained from these tests will inform the engineers in their plans for scheduled June work and the overall optimization project.

Physical Plant and Physical Planning and Construction have another planned testing outage tentatively scheduled for June 15. More information will be shared as we approach that date. In addition, an upcoming Tuesday Newsday article will highlight the various utility stability projects that have been completed and are underway.

I appreciate your patience as we work toward completing this important project.