Power Outage Plagues Campus

On Oct. 1, there was a power outage on the campus of California Lutheran University. The Southern California Edison Power Company orchestrated the outage as part of a power plan with Cal Lutheran.

The power outage consisted of all power turning off on South campus. Once alerted about the need to reduce power, facilities switched campus power over to a generator. This generator supported the academic buildings and Ullman Commons, leaving most of the residence halls without power.

“We have a generator that supports half of the campus needs,” Ryan Van Ommeren, associate vice president of Facilities, Operation and Planning, said. “That’s why we go through the process, we try to keep the academic buildings up and shut down the residence halls.”

This abrupt outage was the result of Edison telling facilities that Cal Lutheran needed to reduce its power and conserve energy. Van Ommeren sent out an information email immediately after facilities was told about the outage.

“They called us at 1:00 p.m. sharp for a 1:30 p.m. outage and they said they would restore the power at 3:30 p.m. sharp,” Van Ommeren said.

The program Cal Lutheran is a part of is called Base Interruptible Program. Van Ommeren said the campus has been on the program for 15 years because the program is very beneficial to Cal Lutheran and is a good way to save energy.

“We receive a discount of our power to the tune of over $120,000 per year,” Van Ommeren said. “In order to take this money, the deal is when they are running out of power, we have to cut off our power.”

In the chaos of the outage the generator that was being used to power most of South campus became unstable. In this fragile state the power was turned off in many of the academic buildings as well as the residence halls.

“We switched over to the generator and we had some trouble and overloaded it at first, then it took some analysis,” Van Ommeren said. “We eventually had to switch off the generator, fix it and turn it back on. That’s why we had buildings switching and turning off unlike we normally would have had.”

“The generator is by the student union. Essentially the power leg kind of comes down the street, services the commons and then services Mogen, Grace and Trinity,” Director of Facilities Management Mark Jacobsen said. “The power outage doesn’t effect North, South, Potenberg etc. because they get serviced from a generator over by them. So that’s why if you were out of power in Trinity you could walk over to that side of campus and there would be full power.”

Chris Hanna, a junior resident assistant in Grace, said he was in Alumni Hall when the power outage began and his entire classroom lost power.

After the generator was stabilized some residents had power, however, other residence halls did not.  This is a result of another generator supporting the rest of South campus.
Van Ommeren and Jacobsen wanted to give students precautionary information that students can be aware of if this type of event happens again in the future.

“By far the biggest concern that people emailed about was their food spoiling. So what I would like to convey to the students is that the refrigerator will keep the food cold for hours without power,” Jacobsen said. “So as long as you aren’t in and out of the refrigerator it will stay cold for a long time. Additionally, if the outage goes until it gets dark, we try to be proactive and deploy battery powered lamps so that people can see down the hallways.”


Courtney Sooy
Staff Writer
Published October 7th, 2015