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University explains cause of Rutgers power outage

The energy company PSE& G, said the power outage on the Cook and Douglass campuses were caused by a malfunction at Rutgers.  – Photo by Photo by Dimitri Rodriguez | and Dimitri The Daily Targum

A mechanical failure in a transformer near Cooper Dining Hall caused more than 36 hours of blackouts on the Cook and Douglass campuses this week, forcing students on those campuses to spend the night in recreation centers as buildings were tested and brought back online.

Antonio Calcado, executive vice president for Strategic Planning and Operations, said the transformer was taken offline and no more issues are expected.

"The outage was caused by a secondary transformer ... the windings on that motor were loose and it was affecting the grid," he said. 

University Facilities and Capital Planning tested more than 100 pieces of equipment trying to locate the cause of the issue, he said. 

On Wednesday night, Calcado said the maintenance team was looking at and around the substation in order to isolate the fault.

"The main substation is by the Newell (Apartments, but) the transfomer was all the way across campus by Cooper," he said. "We literally (tested) each piece of equipment. We turned circuits on, we turned circuits off to see what (might be the cause)."

The failure was "mechanical in nature." The University has a maintenance and prevention program to limit the number of outages on campus. When personnel tested the various pieces of equipment, they had to make sure any abnormal findings were related to the outage.

"We're dealing with electricity here," Calcado said. "There's natural anomalies and we have to figure out what's causing the issue."

Rutgers campuses receive power from multiple sources, he said, including the Busch Co-Generation Plant and the Livingston Solar Farm. PSE&G also supplies power to the school.

Each campus has its own power grid though, which is why the outage on Douglass did not impact the College Avenue, Busch or Livingston campuses.

"They're isolated grids. Cook (and) Douglass has its own substation and its own grid, College Avenue has its own substation and grid, Busch has a substation and Livingston has its own," Calcado said.

Last night, a PSE&G spokesperson said the power outage was not caused by an issue on their end. Power was still being supplied to the school but was not being distributed properly.

"I and the University (recognize) this is an inconvenience to students and we apologize to them, but their safety is what we act on," Calcado said. "And we appreciate everyone's cooperation."

Nikhilesh De is the news editor of The Daily Targum. He is a School of Engineering senior. Follow him on Twitter @nikhileshde for more.

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