Air conditioning powered down throughout campus due to heat wave


Due to an agreement with PPL Electric Utilities, several buildings on campus including the University Center on Main Street (pictured) went without air conditioning for five hours Thursday, July 18.

Christine Lee, News Editor

The air conditioning in several buildings on campus was shut down for four hours due to a record heat index.

On Thursday July 18, an emergency text message and email was sent to the campus community informing them that due to Wilkes’ participation in the Hess Demand Response Program, air conditioning and other building mechanicals would be shut down by facilities campus-wide that afternoon around 2p.m. The program is an energy program run through PPL Electric Utilities where in the case of extreme weather conditions Wilkes agrees to shed some of its energy load to emergency facilities such as hospitals and fire departments.

“I was actually at lunch when they gave the notification, so when I came back it was time to leave so it wasn’t even hot yet,” Student Services clerk Yvonne Ritsick said of the air conditioning being shut down in her office in the University Center on Main Street.

Executive Director of Capital Projects John Pesta, who was in charge of facilitating the shutdown, said although Wilkes has participated in the agreement for the past five years, this is the first time the agreement was put into effect on campus.

“This is the first time that we had to reduce energy consumption, that we had to curtail our consumption,” he said.

Pesta explained that the request from PPL to shut down the air conditioning came in around 12:50p.m. and they were given until 2:50p.m. to turn off most of the air conditioning on campus. The air conditioning started to power down between 1:30 and 2:30p.m. and were turned back on around 5:30p.m.

Buildings where the air conditioning was powered down included all of the Darte Center except for the first floor, the Marts Center, the first floor and part of the second floor of the Student Union Building, the Farley Library, Roth Hall, the University Center on Main Street and the new Cohen Science Center. They had their air conditioning shut down due to their size, which means they absorb a lot of energy.

Buildings whose air conditioning remained on included Evans Hall due to Upward Bound students staying there, University Towers, which also had students staying there, Breiseth Hall and Stark Learning Center, which had classes taking place in them. The air conditioning on the first floor of the Darte Center was kept on due to a conservatory class going on, as well as on the third floor of the Student Union Building to allow Upward Bound students to eat dinner that evening.

Junior biology major Abbey Philips, who was in an organic chemistry lab when the notice came out, had concerns about the air conditioning going off in University Towers, although the air conditioning was not powered down in the building.

“I was just worried about (the air conditioning) powering off in Towers because there’s elderly people living in the building,” Phillips said.

Although the outage took place when there weren’t many classes taking place, Interim Provost Therese Wignot said the only call she placed that day was to the director of the Upward Bound program, informing them to move their activities taking place in buildings without air conditioning to one of the buildings with air conditioning still on.

“I contacted the director in Upward Bound, because I sort of knew where they were but I asked her to communicate with those individuals,” Wignot said. “They were about an hour in (to their activities) and I informed them there were rooms in Breiseth or Stark to finish out the rest of the day.”

Wignot said there were no other classes that were moved because the majority of the classes already taking place were taking place in Breiseth Hall or Stark Learning Center.

Pesta said membership, which lasts for three-year increments, to the Hess Demand Response Program is optional but Wilkes gets a rebate on their electrical consumption as a member. He added that the service is tested once a year but because it was enacted this year, it won’t be tested.

“We just felt it was something that was beneficial to the university to do only because of how we could help the utilities ensure that certain organizations or facilities of power sufficient levels so they didn’t have brown-outs or black-outs,” he said.