Power maintenance project goes off without problems

Power outage graphic

UO Campus Planning and Facilities Management successfully completed a long-awaited utility project that shut off electrical power to campus during the week of June 1.

The maintenance and testing project was originally scheduled during spring break but was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the altered timeline, the critical project went off without a hitch, the department said, with minimal issues reported on both days of work.

It was a successful trial for a project that Campus Planning and Facilities Management now plans to conduct on an annual basis.

“Everything went great,” said Rick Tabor, the co-director of utilities and energy at the UO. “I think we talked about this so much over the last two years that everyone was fully prepared and ready to go.”

On day 1, the project involved necessary maintenance on several electrical feeder breakers that each power numerous buildings on campus. That work was critical for the continued safe operation of the campus electrical system.

On day 2, the department tested the university’s ability to independently power its operations with the UO’s Central Power Station, known as “island mode.” The test ensured that the power station’s equipment and systems would perform as designed. That preparation is key for a potential situation where the primary power source for campus becomes temporarily unavailable.

The stakes on this year’s project were high, both because the UO is home to lots of sensitive and costly research equipment and because it had been several years since a planned campuswide power outage, said Michael Harwood, associate vice president for campus planning and facilities management.

“This was a great team effort; a number of people in Campus Planning and Facilities Management, Safety and Risk Services and University Communications played critical roles,” he said.” We learned a lot about to how to do this work in a way that minimizes disruptions to the UO campus and community.”

Harwood and Tabor said conducting the work annually will be critical for doing necessary upkeep on electrical feeder breakers, learning more about the UO’s island mode capabilities and gathering data on the campus’ electrical usage.

“The whole team at utilities and energy appreciates everyone’s help and understanding in making this a success,” Tabor said.