Lights out make for an exciting Friday morning

Here is an article I wrote October 7, 2015 for The Mast:

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The power outage occurred in buildings around PLU’s campus. Students developed unique solutions to go about studying and learning.

RHIANNON BERG ’18

Lutes were forced to find creative solutions to power their daily routines on Sept. 24 after sections of Pacific Lutheran University’s campus were left without power due to a damaged power line off campus.

Parkland Light and Water tried to reinstate power after “Comcast subcontractors on Park Avenue hit a line on 121 and C Street,” explained Bruce Broussard, the Maintenance Manager of PLU Facilities and Management.

“When the power goes down we just wait until it comes back and then make sure everything came back up. It was an inconvenience, but had nothing to do with the campus. We just waited for Parkland Light and Water to fix it,” Broussard explained.

Professors and students showed innovation for classes held in buildings that were left without power: Ingram, Hauge, and Xavier. Sophomore Gena Powell said she attended a class in Hauge where her professor hand-wrote everything on the whiteboard he had intended to show as a PowerPoint presentation.

Many students were inconvenienced by the outage. Students living in Ordal, Hong and Stuen had to find solutions to using pitch black bathrooms and non-operating drinking fountains. Sophomore Paige Lily, an Ordal resident, explained she had to do her makeup in the lounge with natural lighting as opposed to using the bathroom mirrors.

After swipe access into Stuen stopped working, junior Garth West, an RA and front desk worker, said he, “developed a system to let people into Stuen” by looking at students’ Lute Cards. By the end of his shift he had a new appreciation for the usual entry system.
Interestingly, during the PLU outage a Lutheran University in California was also left without power. Students at California Lutheran University were undergoing a two hour long test of “Scheduled power reductions.”

Mark Jacobsen, Director of Facility Management at CLU, explained these planned outages are an effort to save energy. He said, during the peak demand times for power use the local utility company can reduce the amount of power available to the campus.
Southern California Edison is “one of the nation’s largest electric utilities” and has various programs to help companies and homeowners to lower their utility costs and conserve energy, according to their website.

CLU is enrolled in the “Base Interruptible Program” and receives credit when they allow Edison to redirect their power to other customers on an emergency basis. These credits have equated to more than $100,000 in energy savings for CLU throughout the ten years they have been involved in the program.

Enrollment in this program means SCE can cut off power to CLU’s non-essential buildings, which includes residence halls, at any time with less than 30 minutes of warning.

Jacobsen explained, “When [SCE] get[s] this call to reduce power, we have to do what Edison asks. We have no control. We don’t know when power is going to come back on.”

This is a controversial issue at CLU because “many students feel that it is an unnecessary inconvenience and students get concerned about when power will come back [to] power to devices and refrigerators.”

CLU has had unplanned voluntary outages that have lasted for more than 12 hours in the past and CLU did not reimburse students for food that had gone bad and thus been wasted during the outages.

While losing power at PLU for four hours was inconvenient for some Lutes, it is a common and impactful issue for CLU students.

You can read it and watch the video on The Mast’s website at http://mastmedia.plu.edu/2015/10/07/lights-out-make-for-an-exciting-friday-morning/

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