By Richard Zagrzecki
As the UH community was enjoying its winter break, the electrical system that provides power to campus was undergoing a massive checkup.
Electrical contractors from JonMar Electric were brought in to conduct repairs and complete a list of preventative maintenance work. In addition, Absolute Testing Services conducted a whole host of tests on the grid. The data from those tests is now being analyzed by the engineering firm of Shah Smith, which will be providing the University with a comprehensive report detailing its findings.
Facilities Planning and Construction’s Ken Oliver was the project manager for the undertaking, which went off without a hitch and had a minimal impact on campus.
“The campus administration, faculty and leadership has been extremely supportive, understanding and patient throughout this process,” said Facilities Planning and Construction Principal Project Manager Shannon Jones. “This greatly helps in completing the project on time and addressing the electrical issues as required.”
Three electrical feeders bring electricity to campus from a substation located just south of the Energy Research Park. The oldest of those feeders, known as Cougar 1, was shut down over the winter break so needed repairs could be completed on it. Comprehensive testing was conducted on Cougar 1 and the other two feeders also underwent testing to detect any potential issues before they develop into major problems.
In order for the work to be conducted on Cougar 1, it needed to be shut down and the electricity that usually flows from it diverted to the other two feeders. For the buildings served by Cougar 1, that meant a brief period of electrical blips as the diversion took place. The occupants of those buildings were notified well in advance so they could plan and make any needed adjustments.
The preventative maintenance work on the electrical system included installing animal protection equipment meant to hinder squirrels, birds and other creatures from getting to the power lines, where they could inadvertently knock out the system. In addition, lightning suppressors were added, which helps limit the potential damage that could be inflicted by a strike.
Once the electrical system test results come back from Shah Smith, the University will have a better understanding of what other repairs and maintenance needs to be conducted on all three electrical feeders. Such proactive measures help thwart any major issues from arising.
“There will be a need for other scheduled planned, preventative and predictive maintenance actions to occur routinely to preserve and restore equipment reliability by replacing worn components before they fail,” Jones said.