University continues to experience limited power outages

12/5/2012 - By: Staff Report

Update: 2:20 p.m., 12/28/2012

Planned Electrical Outage:

Facilities Services has scheduled a planned electrical outage for Laxalt Mineral Research, Laxalt Mineral Engineering, and the Davidson Math and Science buildings on Thursday, January 3, 2013.

Laxalt Mineral Engineering and Laxalt Mineral Research are scheduled for a nine (9) hour outage beginning at 8:00 a.m. and ending at approximately 5:00 p.m.
Davidson Math and Science is scheduled for a two (2) hour outage beginning at 3:00 p.m. and ending at approximately 5:00 p.m.

Building generators will power limited functions, such as emergency lighting, during the period of the outage. Building occupants are encouraged to power off all electronic or sensitive equipment prior to the scheduled outage.

Upgrades to the 25 KV "south loop" are planned during the outage, including the replacement of two switches. The upgrades should enhance reliability of the utility service. Planning for this upgrade has been in the works for several months and is not related to the unplanned power outage experienced earlier this month.

For questions or concerns about the planned outage, please contact Mike Bennett at 682-7185 or hbennett@unr.edu.

Update: 12/17/2012

A campus-wide, short-term power outage occurred last night, although was totally unrelated to recent power issues experienced on campus. The outage last night was the result of an auto accident that damaged a power pole and transformer on Sutro Street near Hug High School in Reno, and resulted in an power outage that knocked out service to about 10,000 NV Energy customers in north Reno, including the main campus, and Sun Valley. As a result of last night's outage, it may be necessary to reboot some computers and specialized equipment.

As shared in Friday's Provost's Announcements, all University buildings that were on generators have been returned to the campus electrical system. Significant repairs have been made to the campus electrical system which is now fully operational and stable. Additional repairs will be made over the holiday break and this work will be communicated in advance to the faculty and staff of the few buildings which may be potentially impacted.

Facilities Services has provided a comprehensive explanation of what transpired with our campus electrical system over the last couple weeks, including the strategy by which the campus electrical distribution system has been addressed to ensure stable service.

For assistance with or to report campus utility failures, such as loss of electricity, heating or ventilation, (775) 784-8020.

It has been frustrating for faculty, staff and students impacted by the inconvenience of recent, multiple power outages. Facilities Services staff reiterates their appreciation for the patience and support showed by many, as it proved very helpful during what was a difficult week for everyone involved.

Update: 12/13/2012

Now that the immediate crisis associated with last week's intermittent power outages are over, Facilities Services has provided a comprehensive explanation of what transpired with our campus electrical system.

At this time, all University buildings on generators last week have been returned to the campus electrical system. Significant repairs have been made to the system which is now providing a stable electrical power supply. Additional repairs will be made over the holiday break and this work will be communicated in advance to the faculty and staff of the few buildings which may potentially be impacted. Facilities Services is positioned with a strategy, personnel and funding over the next several years that will ensure stable and reliable electrical power supply, and this, too, is further explained in their comprehensive update.

It's been a difficult past week for those faculty, staff and students who endured the inconvenience of multiple power outages over several days. Facilities Services staff was exceptionally responsive along with various contractors in trying to locate a fault over a very complex electrical system, and they extend appreciation for the patience and support showed by many last week, as it proved very helpful during what was a difficult week for everyone involved.

Update: 3:00 p.m. Dec. 7

The following update is from the Facilities Services Department:

Late yesterday evening we were able to return Laxalt Mineral Research back on to commercial power. This morning at 4 AM we began to return Davidson Math and Science Center (DM&S) back onto commercial power, however, we experienced some problem so postponed our plans this morning.

Notwithstanding the failed attempt at the DM&S switch gear, we continued today to work on the second problem switch gear located adjacent Harry Reid. We are now close to being able to bring all the remaining generator-powered buildings back onto commercial power; they include DM&S, Harry Reid Engineering Laboratory and Scrugham Engineering. Listed below is our plan for later this afternoon:

  • DM&S will be without power starting at 4 PM; it should be back on commercial power by 6:30 PM
  • Harry Reid will be without power starting at 5 PM; it should also be back on commercial power by 6:30 PM
  • Scrugham Engineering will be without power starting at 6:30 PM; it should be back on commercial power by 8:30 PM

For occupants in these buildings, please turn off items using electrical power such as lights and computer prior to these power outage times.


UPDATE 8 a.m. Dec. 6 - Late yesterday afternoon generator power was restored to the last remaining building without power which was Davidson, Math and Science (DM&S). Again this morning, all our buildings have power.

Around 2 PM yesterday we discovered faulty switch gear behind DM&S which we believe is the primary cause of these outages. We are securing replacement parts and will be working today to replace this switch gear along with faulty switch gear adjacent the Harry Reid building. As mentioned yesterday in a previous update, we have parts that are scheduled to arrive this afternoon from Los Angeles so it's unclear if we'll be able to complete both repairs by the end of this evening. If not, we'll continue on into Friday with a high probability that we'll complete the job then. Please note that during this time, we expect to have stable and reliable power to all our buildings either through generators or commercial power.

Updates will continue to be posted on this webpage. The primary contact for this matter is Sean McGoldrick, Associate Vice President Facilities Services, at (775) 784-6514 or smcgoldrick@unr.edu.

Thank you again for your patience.


TO: Students, faculty and staff
FROM: Provost Heather Hardy and Ron Zurek, VP Administration & Finance
DATE: 12:35 p.m., Wednesday, Dec. 5
RE: Campus Power Outages

We wanted to provide an update to our power outage announcement Tuesday. Unfortunately, we were not able to resolve the problem by early afternoon as our initial e-mail had indicated, rather power was restored at a little after 4 PM. The delay was caused by the need for additional testing of all of the affected electrical lines in an effort to pinpoint the cause of the four outages during the past ten days.

Unfortunately, the University has experienced another power outage on the same problematic "south loop" again Wednesday morning, however, because of some of the preventative actions taken Tuesday by our staff, only two buildings, Davidson Math and Science and Laxalt Mineral Research (LMR) were impacted. We reenergized the south loop at about 11:30 to bring Davidson Math and Science back on commercial power, however, LMR was left off of commercial power in order to trouble-shoot a suspected problem transformer. In the meantime, a generator is being set up for LMR and we should see power restored by 3 PM at the latest. Please be aware that all our facilities should have reliable, stable power for exam week.

While our staff has been exceptionally responsive to minimizing the downtime and trouble-shooting the problem, it has become clear that an area for improvement is better communication with the campus community concerning the occurrence, severity, and anticipated duration of an outage. Power outages adversely affect our faculty, staff and students so timely and informative communication is critical to your planning needs. We have multiple mechanisms like phone texting, e-mails and University web page postings to achieve an improved communication approach so we'll institute changes that incorporate these mechanisms and hopefully improve our notification procedures.

Finally, we are making a good faith effort to provide the most current information we have at the time but as you might suspect, as we continue to trouble-shoot the problem, new information develops which may prompt us to alter our problem solving approach. We will continue to keep our campus community as up-to-date as possible without inconveniencing them with too many e-mails or texts. The primary contact for this matter is Sean McGoldrick, Associate Vice President Facilities Services, at (775) 784-6514 or smcgoldrick@unr.edu.

Thank you again for your patience.

Heather Hardy, Executive Vice President and Provost
Ron Zurek, Vice President Facilities, Administration and Finance


UPDATE 10 a.m., Dec. 5 - The University has experienced another power outage on the south loop. Only two buildings, Davidson Math and Science and Laxalt Mineral Research, are impacted. These two buildings should expect to be without power for several hours as we troubleshoot the problem.


TO: Students, faculty and staff
FROM: Ron Zurek, VP Administration & Finance
DATE: Tuesday, Dec. 4
RE: Campus Power Outages

The University is presently experiencing a power outage impacting 10 buildings on the "south loop" electrical distribution system: the buildings include the Brian Whalen Parking Structure, Central Heat Plant, Davidson Math & Science, Fitzgerald Student Services, Fleischman Agriculture, Harry Reid Engineering Laboratory, Harry Reid Engineering Hydraulic Pump Building, Laxalt Mineral Research, Raggio Education Building and Scrugham Engineering. Some of these buildings have back-up power, so the outage may not be evident. The matter is presently being addressed and it is anticipated that power will be restored by early afternoon.

By way of background we have experienced a continuing problem with the 65-year-old "south loop" power distribution system for several months which resulted in six unscheduled outages since February. We recognize and greatly apologize for the inconvenience this issue has placed on our faculty, staff and students and appreciate your continued patience with our efforts to resolve the situation. Please know that all available resources are being called upon to correct the problem and we're continuing to narrow the number of potential causes for these outages and are working with our staff and various electrical contractors and vendors to resolve this issue as quickly as possible.

This outage is similar to the power outage experienced yesterday. Yesterday's event impacted four additional buildings including the Joe Crowley Student Union, the Applied Research Facility, the Judicial College, and the Mathewson-IGT Knowledge Center. The total event yesterday lasted roughly five hours which was longer than anticipated as we were conducting additional tests to narrow the potential scope of the problem. Ultimately, we transferred these four buildings off of the problematic "south loop" onto the "north loop" which is why these four buildings are not impacted by today's outage. Please note that following the resumption of power early this afternoon, the Raggio Education Building, Brian Whalen Parking Structure and the Fitzgerald Student Services building will be also moved onto the more reliable "north loop" until such times as we have resolved the "south loop" problem.


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