VT paid to prove they can reduce electricity - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va

VT paid to prove they can reduce electricity

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BLACKSBURG, VA -

The lights went out at Virginia Tech Thursday. It was all part of a program to see just how much control the university has on its energy output -- to prepare for future emergencies.  More than fifty people help switch the campus over to emergency generators, unplug appliances and shut down AC units all for a drill.

"Everybody knows what they're supposed to do when they get that call" said Steven Shelor, the HVAC controls supervisor.

Virginia Tech gets paid to prove they can reduce their energy usage on demand. For one hour they had to drop from using 26,000 kilowatts to 19,000 kilowatts. It's a program run by the independent company Energy Connect who's contracted by the state to prepare for emergencies.

"They have to give us at least an hour's notice there's a grid emergency, a generation plant in trouble, it's too much load on the grid we need you to drop" said Shelor who can shut down more than one hundred HVAC systems on campus with the click of a mouse. "It's pretty neat to be able to do that on demand the technology we have at our fingertips to be able to do that."

They say last year they actually got the call where they needed to reduce their electricity use. They got a call around 2 pm that a nuclear plant went down and it was a really hot day.  They had to reduce electricity from 4-8 p.m.

"We had to do this thing for real last summer we weren't sure how that was going to go and everybody responded very well and we were successful in meeting the actual emergency condition" said Fred Selby, the VT energy manager who helped bring the program to campus.

Selby says in the last four years they've only had the emergency call once but they could be called on up to ten times from June through September.

"It's an opportunity for us to bring in some additional revenue" said Selby.

By proving they can reduce energy, Virginia Tech cashes in. They've raised more than $644,000 dollars for the general fund.

2010 - $162,210

2011 - $205,380

2012 - $138,521

2013 - $138,718

"It helps the college to get that money plus we feel like were doing our part to help the energy suppliers to be able to control their load" said Shelor.

Virginia Tech says they were able to drop 25-percent of what they were using just by unplugging items on campus like phone chargers and turning off lights.

APCo has a similar program with customers who use a lot of electricity.

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