San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

February 2nd, 2011
Updated: Brownouts cause Texas State to close


Texas State canceled classes as of noon Wednesday and announced early Wednesday evening that the cancelations will continue through 12:30 p.m. Thursday due to rolling power brownouts ordered across the state.

The university will decide by noon Thursday whether classes will resume on Thursday afternoon. Although classes are canceled, university offices will remain open and maintain normal business hours.

The cancelations affect both the San Marcos and Round Rock campuses.

The university has been advised by Electrical Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) that rolling brownouts will continue across Texas as long as the cold temperatures continue this week. ERCOT informs wholesale providers like the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) of the need to cut back power. In turn, the LCRA in turn informs retail providers like San Marcos Electric Utility (SMEU) that they are required to take down various electrical substations. The Round Rock campus is served by an investor-owned utility company that is subject to rolling brownouts, as well.

The main Texas State campus is primarily served by two different SMEU substations. As ERCOT randomly orders brown outs in San Marcos, the substations will be taken off line at various times throughout the day and night. Approximately half of the buildings on campus will be without power each time one of the substations goes down.

Each power outage is predicted to last between 15 to 30 minutes.  However, as power is cut to the university’s co-generation plant, the hot water boilers that heat the university’s buildings are shut down. University officials said it takes an hour or two to reheat the water in the boilers before heat to a building can be restored.

Those remaining at the university are urged to use stairs instead of elevators, because power outages can cause passengers to be stranded between floors of a building in an elevator.

ERCOT has requested that electric consumers across the state minimize electrical consumption to help mitigate the need for power outages. The university has requested that all building occupants take steps to reduce personal electrical consumption. University officials said space heaters being turned on already were causing circuits in some campus buildings to trip off Wednesday morning.

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