Lights Out Across Campus Planned for May 10-12

Vicki Rice Kraeger

The campus will be dark for three days in May.

A campus-wide outage is planned to get a new Nebraska Public Power District substation online. The new substation will be built on the site of the old power plant building, which was recently demolished. The old power plant was located just north of the Health and Sports Center and Cushing Coliseum, across University Drive. A new substation is being constructed, and is expected to be complete and ready to go online at that time.

The anticipated, and preferred, dates for the outage are May 10 -12, said Lee McQueen, director of Facilities Management and Planning. The alternate dates for the outage are May 24-26. The outage would take place immediately after spring commencement, which is set for May 9.

McQueen said the outage needed to be scheduled over three consecutive days when there was the least amount of activity possible on campus. The preferred and alternate dates are the dates that will also work with NPPD’s schedule before summer air conditioning and irrigation loads will be too much for the outage. Stan Clouse, account manager with NPPD, said the project is complex with a tight schedule.

“This is one of the more complex projects NPPD has undertaken in quite a while,” he said.

McQueen said that he is hopeful the project will be complete within the three-day window.He said planning is being done to accommodate such things as students who may be staying in residence halls, food service storage and computer services during the time of no power.

“There are a variety of issues to be addressed,” he said. “Some have already been addressed.”

McQueen said that on a day-to-day basis, the switch to the new substation wouldn’t mean any obvious differences. “Power is power,” he said.

The benefits will be seen on an ongoing basis with increased reliability, he said. Today, the campus receives power from one substation transformer. If it fails, power will be out until it is physically fixed.

“If a transformer fails, it takes significant effort to get power back up,” he said. With the new substation, two transformers will be in place, each supplying power for a part of campus. If needed, the whole campus could be fed by either transformer,McQueen said.

Clouse said the larger substation and newer equipment should provide more capacity. UNK will also construct a new central plant to house boilers and chillers. The east and west areas of the campus are now served by heating systems originating from two plants, one constructed in the 1930s. Both plants house boilers, and one contains a chiller. The majority of the steam piping is routed through walk-through tunnels.Most chilled water piping is direct buried, but some is routed through walk-through tunnels. Construction on the new substation is expected to start in March.