Rockefeller University Upgrades Power Monitoring Capabilities
“With the insight that Power Xpert gives our team into the functions within the buildings, it will enable us to develop efficiencies and cost savings.”
Associate director, plant operations
World-renown for research in biomedical sciences, chemistry, bioinformatics and physics, New York City’s Rockefeller University relies on uninterrupted electrical power to protect projects in its 70 laboratories.
When the university embarked on a multi-year, multi-million dollar modernization program of two halls housing laboratories, its goal was to develop stateof- the-art facilities with a high technology infrastructure including a sophisticated power monitoring system.
Although the university has always been equipped with extensive power redundancy, the modernization program required a major upgrade to the institution’s electrical distribution
Rockefeller University’s Associate Director, Plant Operations, Tom Stepanchak reports, “Many of our research projects, which represent decades of work, reside in freezers or other climate controlled spaces. These systems rely heavily on redundant sources of power. Consequently, it was essential that we install a power management and monitoring system that would provide alarming to enable us to respond quickly to an electrical event. We also wanted a system that would give us information about our power consumption so we could negotiate rates with our electrical service providers as well as make changes in our system to save peak demand charges.”
The university’s modernization project began with the construction of a 7.5 megawatt high tension electrical high voltage vault. Built 30 feet underground, the vault houses electrical equipment that accepts 13.8kV incoming service, which is stepped down to 4.16kV for distribution to various parts of the campus. Eaton Power Xpert Meters are installed on each of the five electrical feeders in the vault. The meters are connected to a Power Xpert Gateway 600 to provide university personnel with onboard trending, alarming and email notification of power events.
Stepanchak explains, “Before the vault was built, reading power meters was complex and time consuming. Now, we should not even have to enter the high voltage rooms within the vault. Power Xpert Meter’s remote monitoring capability gives us a very safe, simple way to read the meters as well as do troubleshooting right at our desktop computers.”
Concurrent with the vault’s construction, the university began work on the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) that includes renovation of two research facilities, Smith and Flexner Halls, and the construction of a new bridge building to connect the two halls. Combined, the two halls have six Power Xpert Meters as well as Eaton switchgear.
The CRC incorporates numerous environmentally friendly features in both its design and construction and be certified as a high-performance “green” building by the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program. LEED-certified buildings must meet certain criteria in five areas: sustainable site development, water savings, energy efficiency, materials selection and indoor environmental quality.
Soon after the vault was completed, an electrical feeder breaker inside tripped. In seconds, the Power Xpert Meter linked to the Gateway 600 informed Stepanchak and others via cell phone messages. Appropriate personnel were able to rack out one service safely without any power flow interruption.
Since the vault is sized for future growth, it will enable the university to add capabilities to accommodate the electrical needs of future modernization efforts. The vault also enables the school to buy power at a higher voltage, which allows it to save about 10 percent on its electricity bill when compared to low tension service.
Stepanchak states, “Knowing the trends of our electricity usage gives us the ability to manage our on and off peak usage, which is particularly important in New York City since it is probably one of the most expensive places in the country to buy power.
“Learning how to use Eaton’s metering, software and hardware has been easy. The Power Xpert Meter’s embedded software is very user friendly. Within a half hour and minimal training, I was able to use it easily. I have worked with a number of power management software programs and this is by far the easiest to navigate.”
With Power Xpert, the university has the ability to see what is happening in real time as well as access historical information regarding power usage. That gives it the ability to make the decisions and take the steps required to reduce power usage and achieve cost savings.
Stepanchak notes, “Power Xpert has some exceptional features that give us information so we can see our energy profile. I can compare today’s energy profile versus yesterday’s and view weekly consumption comparisons. As our modernization projects are completed, I am confident that the Power Xpert information will enable us to quickly and effectively monitor and manage the electrical performance of the new buildings. With the insight that Power Xpert gives our team into the functions within the buildings, it will enable us to develop efficiencies and
“It will also give the university far more operating flexibility. For example, if we want to do maintenance on a transformer, we will know the feeder status so we can be sure that taking a transformer out of service will not jeopardize building operations. We have the ability to take a feeder in and out of service easily and safely without going into the high voltage vault.
“While we made a significant investment in upgrading our electrical system, when we considered the consequences of jeopardizing research projects that have the potential to generate scientific results with worldwide benefits, the expense is definitely justified.”