Multiple buildings across campus experienced power outages on Tuesday, Feb. 9. While it is not currently known how many buildings were effected by the outage, various administrative buildings, East Campus classroom facilities and West Campus dorms lost power.
The outage happened at 9:42 a.m. when a current limiter control malfunctioned.
Tech routes 20 kilovolts of the total electricity used on campus by directing the voltage through eight different lines, or feeders. The feeders are run through-out campus so that no one area is dependent on one feeder and so that the voltage is balanced among the eight lines. Some of the buildings on campus are hooked up directly to Georgia Power lines.
The current limiter controls are placed on sets or individual feeders in order to prevent over-current from coming onto the power lines. During the outage one of the current limiting systems malfunctioned and two of the eight feeder lines most likely went down, as one current limiter often handles the voltage for two feeders.
While many of the academic and administrative buildings only suffered power outages lasting a few seconds, some of the West Campus dorms, such as the Undergraduate Living Center, lost power for over an hour.
“We have what we call a double ended switch gear, so many of the buildings shouldn’t have seen it [the power outage]. What happens is… a piece of equipment in many buildings that switches the building to another feeder, and some buildings don’t have it [the double ended switch gear]”, said Mike Leasure, manager of utilities and energy for Tech.
Not all buildings on campus have the double-ended switch gears, as the equipment and the necessary dual-feeder hook-up can be costly. It is likely that the housing buildings affected by the outage did not have the equipment, which would explain why it took much longer for those buildings to regain power. “In order to put a load back on a line you have to take all the power off a line and then bring it [the power] back up for each building individually, which can take time. If the buildings weren’t on two lines, it could mean some time without power,” Leasure said.
There has not been a similar large-scale outage at Tech in recent history, and there have been no recorded cases of faulty current limiter control equipment in the past.
“We have very reliable power here at Tech, more so than even some of the buildings set on Georgia Power directly. Where the power goes through our system its been reliable since we do have double-ended feeders and can switch the feeds”, Leasure said.
The faulty current limiter control equipment were scheduled to be examined and tested by their manufacturer G&W Electric.