Expect a Short-Term Power Interruption Mon., June 9
NORTHAMPTON, Mass. – As part of testing Smith College’s new power system, electricity to the entire campus will be shut off Monday, June 9, at 5 a.m., and will likely remain off for up to 30 minutes. Electrical generators for emergency and egress lighting are expected to start automatically.
The testing is required for Smith’s cogeneration system – commonly called “CoGen”– to become operational. Once the environmentally and economically efficient system is fully engaged, it will produce both electricity and heat for the campus.
Other scheduled tests Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday mornings may cause momentary power interruptions across campus. On Monday and Tuesday, those are not expected to continue beyond 8:30 a.m.
However, on Wednesday Smith expects to synchronize the cogeneration system with the regional power grid and momentary power interruptions are possible throughout the day.
With the new system, Smith will need to purchase only a fraction of its power from outside sources, making the college less vulnerable to rising energy costs. Further, the efficiency of the cogeneration system will reduce Smith’s dependence on fossil fuel and cut the college’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent.
The testing involves confirming that the turbine/generator and gear will successfully manage the load between the campus demand, the Smith supply and the grid supply, according to Gary Hartwell, project manager.
“We need a full campus load to conduct these tests – in other words an occupied campus, daytime load,” said Hartwell. “Unfortunately there is no way to simulate a test like this without exceeding the generator’s capacity.”
Once the cogeneration plant is operational, Smith will generate enough electricity to meet about two-thirds of its need, saving enough money to make back its $11.5 million cost within years. During an average year, Smith uses about $6 million worth of energy to heat, cool and power the campus – an amount equivalent to the need of about 2,500 homes during the same time period.
Throughout much of the past century, steam boilers have heated Smith’s 120 residential, academic and administrative buildings. The new system was designed by vanZelm, Heywood and Shadford of West Hartford, Ct., with input from Smith student engineers, and will run on natural gas.
“We certainly understand that no one wants to lose power and we are hopeful that the testing will go well and the outages will be limited to the earliest morning hours,” said Hartwell.
Physical Plant will have staff available should any part of the campus experience equipment failure.