Update on power optimization

To: UCSC Community

From: Henry Salameh, Director of Physical Plant

As many of you recall, UC Santa Cruz experienced an extended power outage on January 4 that began at about 9:30 a.m. and lasted until about 5 p.m. The outage, caused by a downed PG&E utility line off campus, was the longest one we've had in several years.

A second outage, again on a PG&E line, briefly left the campus without power in the early hours of January 5.

In both situations, every effort was made to restore power as quickly as possible.

During the outages, the campus's Cogeneration Plant failed to restart to provide emergency power to Science Hill. Working with the vendor, we believe we've identified the issues that caused the problem with the cogen, though further testing will be required. This will be carefully coordinated with the campus community and scheduled to cause the least amount of disruption.

We also identified an aging power line on Science Hill that will soon be replaced.

The recent outages and the inclement weather that can cause power disruptions underscore the purpose and motivation to complete the Cogeneration Plant Optimization project, set to be finished in September 2017.

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 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. Last year, we had two planned power outages as part of the optimization project. These outages were undertaken to allow for testing various faults. As a result of these tests, we had seen success, and in recent outages, the new cogen seamlessly picked up power to Science Hill. However, the outage on Jan. 5 exposed other issues.

Staff with Physical Plant found a fault in one of the main campus power lines near the Natural Sciences 2 building, and two of the plant subsystems (the black start generator controls and the heat recovery unit/turbine purge) failed in their start-up sequence. We continue to work toward completing the optimization project. We are also repairing and addressing any operational issues that arise during these utility fault scenarios.

I realize how any outage—planned or unexpected—can severely disrupt the important work that happens on our campus. I appreciate your patience as we work toward better power reliability for our campus.