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Squirrel causes power outages

Kate Antonacci | Tuesday, October 3, 2006

Nearly 50 percent of Notre Dame’s campus temporarily lost power Saturday less than one hour before kickoff for the home football game against Purdue.

American Electric Power (AEP), the public utility company that provides nearly 50 percent of Notre Dame’s power, had a failure at a substation on the west side of South Bend caused by a squirrel, Director of Utilities Paul Kempf said.

A transmission line serving that substation and Notre Dame’s substation was opened, which caused the brief outage, Kempf said.

The power outage began at around 1:45 p.m. and lasted for 15 to 20 minutes, Kempf said.

Various buildings on campus, including several residence halls and LaFortune Student Center, lost power. Kempf did not have an exact list of affected locations.

“When such an incident occurs, our service from AEP is interrupted, causing a power outage,” he said. “Subsequently, in order to protect the power plant and the balance of the electrical load that it serves, the University must automatically shed load [equal to what is lost].”

Kempf said the outage did not have any effect on scheduled football activities since there are multiple protections on the system to protect Notre Dame Stadium during large events.

“Our load shedding scheme takes into consideration that there is a game and we protect the feeders that serve the stadium,” he said.

Though normally the utilities department prioritizes which buildings on campus get power back first – depending on the time of day, day of the week or special events – Kempf said there was no need to prioritize Saturday because it was not a protracted outage.

AEP has a history of zero to three such outages a year caused by weather or equipment failures, Kempf said.

“The reliability of the 138 kV line that serves the University is very good, as in the recorded history of the line there has never been an outage of the line greater than the reclosure cycle,” he said.