Home Education OU powers down to earn $120K

OU powers down to earn $120K

4 min read

The university raked in $121,260 last Wednesday when it quickly cut electrical usage by almost 30 percent as part of a program to relieve stress on the electrical grid and fill holes in the university budget.

Three years ago, the university enrolled in Demand Response, a program that incentivizes businesses and schools to dramatically reduce energy usage when there is a threat of power outages as there was last week.

By reducing its electrical usage from 21.4 megawatts to slightly more than 15 megawatts in “a pretty big hurry,” the university exceeded the bar set by Demand Response, winning $74,260 on top of the $47,000 it receives by participating in the program, said Mike Gebeke, the executive director of Facilities Management.

“These dollars will help the university meet budget shortages in the next year,” said Vice President for Finance and Administration Stephen Golding in a mass email calling on students to unplug their chargers and coffee pots last week.

It was the first time that the program called on the university to act while the school year was in full swing, Gebeke said. About 30 percent of the drop in electrical usage was due to students, faculty and staff, who unplugged electrical devices and turned off air conditioning units. Meanwhile, Facilities shut down air handlers and chillers.

The university sustained its electrical usage at about 15 megawatts for five hours until the energy reduction was called off early at 7 p.m., according to Gebeke.

Although the university normally uses about 21 megawatts during peak hours of the day, this energy usage does not always pose a strain on the electrical grid, he said. One of the hottest days of the month, Sept. 11, was the first time this year that the university called for an emergency energy reduction.

Founded about 10 years ago when rolling blackouts were plaguing California, the program runs during the summer from June 1 to Sept. 30 when the risk of power outages is higher, said Gebeke. EnergyConnect, a part of Johnson Controls, administers the program for Ohio University.

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), electricity providers are increasingly using demand response programs to better control their supply and demand levels. In this way, providers can put off building new power plants and power delivery systems, especially those designated for use during peak times.

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