Lightning strike affects College power

A power outage caused by a lightning strike to the College’s Cogeneration Plant on Aug. 30 is still affecting campus power, causing a string of short power outages in the past two weeks.

This past weekend, the College performed tests on the electrical system, which led to more outages.

Friday, the servers controlling swipe access shut down for several hours during an outage, according to Matthew Golden, executive director of Public Affairs and Communications.

Campus Police were notified that anyone with an I.D. Card could swipe into any building around 9:30 p.m. Friday.

“The alternative would be for (the swipe cards) to work in none of the halls, which would lead to a large number of people being locked out,” Golden said.

Golden added, “Because individual rooms have locks and because IT works to restore the servers as rapidly as possible if they go down, the current default makes the most sense.”

Campus Police Chief John Collins advised students to be cautious if the swipe access servers go down again, allowing students to swipe into any building on campus.

“People should just exercise their normal precautions they would when they get in their rooms and lock them,” Collins said.

Lightning struck PSE&G’s grid Aug. 30, causing a power surge at the College’s Central Utilities Plant and damaging the Cogeneration Plant’s computers, according to Golden.

The second outage occurred at about 5 p.m. the same day when Facilities restarted the Cogeneration Plant, but it was unable to synchronize with the PSE&G grid.

“PSE&G advised us that they continued to have significant power dips in their lines throughout the day after the lightning strike, which we believe caused our inability to synchronize with the utility grid,” Golden said.

The campus suffered another outage Sept. 2 when the Cogeneration Plant again failed to synchronize with the PSE&G grid.

Facilities successfully restarted the Cogeneration Plant again Sept. 3, only to fail again, causing another campus-wide outage.

“It is now apparent that the damage sustained on Saturday (Aug. 30) is more widespread than previously thought,” Lori Winyard, director of mechanical engineering, said in a campus-wide e-mail.

According to Golden, the College’s electrical systems are designed to sever the Cogeneration Plant from the grid in the event of a potentially damaging event, like the Aug. 30 lightning strike.

“While this causes a campus power outage, it protects human safety as well as the College’s equipment and buildings,” he said.

Golden said planned power outages over the summer were unrelated to the recent outages.

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Myles Ma