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Employees, residents asked to reduce electrical usage

STANFORD -- Stanford University officials are asking the roughly 30,000 people who are on campus on an average day to reduce electrical usage.

Facilities officials said significant reductions in electricity use could be accomplished by turning off lights, copy machines, air conditioners, personal computers and coffee pots when not needed. Help is most urgently needed between the hours of noon and 6 p.m.

When consumption is reaching excessive levels this summer, a one-line "warning" will be flashed over the campus-wide electronic mail system, requesting immediate individual action.

If usage cannot be reduced, the university may have to limit its ability to provide air conditioning during the hot summer months.

Rising demand

Stanford's electrical power demand has been rising faster than projected. Contractual commitments between the university, Cardinal Cogen and the Pacific Gas and Electric Co. were established six years ago, and extend through the year 2002.

(Cardinal Cogen is an on-campus cogeneration facility that is operated by an outside contractor; it produces electricity and steam heat. It operates in conjunction with the university- owned Central Energy Facility, which produces chilled water.)

These commitments limit Stanford's electrical peak period demand this year to 19.15 megawatts. (The peak period is defined as Monday through Friday, noon to 6 p.m.)

The contracts provide for a 3 percent annual rate of growth, which at the time of the contracts was greater than Stanford's historical growth. However, actual growth has been closer to 5 percent over the past five years. Stanford's electrical demand currently exceeds contractual commitments by over 1 megawatt.

Fortunately, officials said, recent improvements at the Cardinal Cogen electrical plant have increased electrical output and it has been able to cover Stanford's excess demand. But this situation is not expected to continue through the hotter summer months when Stanford's electrical demand increases and Cardinal Cogen's output decreases.

Cardinal Cogen's revenue comes from both the energy sold to Stanford and PG&E, and its ability to provide power during the peak electrical demand period. This latter payment is based on capital improvements PG&E would otherwise have had to make to meet peak demand on its distribution system.

The consequences of Stanford's exceeding its power allocation could be hefty penalties, or if the problem persists, a permanent de-rating of the Cardinal Cogen electrical plant demand power output, and a corresponding reduction in demand payments from PG&E. Either event has significant adverse financial impact for Stanford.

Chilled water

Stanford's chilled water plant - which produces water for air conditioning in most buildings on campus and in the Stanford Medical Center - accounts for 20 percent of the university's total electrical demand. If Stanford is unable to reduce its demand in other ways, chilled water production will be reduced. This is particularly frustrating, officials said, since major improvements at the chilled water plant have recently been completed to remedy the air conditioning shortage Stanford experienced the previous two summers.

Stanford's Facilities Department is taking measures to reduce power demand through an optimization program at the chilled water plant, and tighter control of building mechanical systems, said Robert Reid, manager of Stanford's Energy Management Group.

"However, help is needed from the Stanford community," he said. "Most of Stanford's electrical demand is controlled by individuals, so facilities is asking everyone to reduce their use of electricity."

Ways to help

Lighting consumes much of the electricity on campus. Reid said workers should make a point to turn off lights whenever they leave the office or lab. In offices with windows, he said, workers should consider leaving overhead lights off and supplementing natural lighting with a desk lamp.

Equipment that generates a lot of heat also consumes a lot of electricity - copying machines and coffee makers are good examples. Offices should consider turning off these types of equipment during the lunch hour, and leaving them off until needed again.

Small local air conditioning systems also use considerable power. People who operate them are urged to instead open windows on mild days, using air conditioning only on hot days. Thermostats should be set no lower than 78 degrees. In areas connected to larger systems, administrators are advised to consult their Zone Maintenance Manager to discuss energy-saving possibilities.

"Stanford's demand for power can be reduced, and the entire Stanford community will benefit," Reid said. "However, in order for Stanford's efforts to be successful, the help and cooperation of the entire Stanford community is required. Please take a few minutes to think about what you can do to help."

For more information, community members should contact Julie Hardin, energy management coordinator, at 725-1815.


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