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PG&E's King Salmon Power Plant on Sept. 28 | Photo by Walker B. True

HSU Prepares for more public safety power shutoffs

King Salmon Power Plant promotes grid stability
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King Salmon Power Plant promotes grid stability

California has again warned residents of the potential and likely chances of Public Safety Power Shutoffs. With a larger range of the state being on fire this fall, more residents have been left without power in the midst of a pandemic.

After the 2019 school year was impacted by power outages, HSU immediately sprung into action working toward a plan to improve the issue for students. While they couldn’t have predicted a pandemic would occur at the same time, they’ve created a plan to put into effect during these occurrences.

Associate Vice President for Student Success Stephen St. Onge said HSU students would likely not even realize a power outage had occurred due to their new equipment. Since last year, housing has purchased two generators.

“One is over $6,000 and it will power the JGC building, Cypress, the Canyon, and Sunset and Redwood,” St. Onge said. They also bought a portable generator to power College Creek.

As well as the generators, the King Salmon Powerplant, based in Eureka, is now operating and handling Humboldt County’s future PSPS events. Cris Koczera is the emergency Coordinator for HSU’s Risk Management and Safety Services.

“If we got notice of an impending PSPS right now, this year unlike last year, PG&E has been able to provide typically at least 48 hours of advance notice,” Koczera said. With this extra time, the school has been able to prepare more.

“We already had one PSPS and there was no campus disruption because of the King Salmon Plant,” St. Onge said. “We had the generators ready to go – we were prepared this time.”

This solves many of the problems that concerned students last year. Campus should function as normal this semester, without limited food, power and the need for students to leave their dorms to receive access. Even the elevators should be running for students who cannot rely on stairs.

“We have since – knock on wood – solved those issues,” St. Onge said.

In the instance the King Salmon Plant does not work and students live in an area uncovered by the new generators, HSU has another plan prepared.

“We do have open spaces in other buildings, so we might consider if there’s a need to reopen up the JGC like before or relocating students temporarily to other spaces as well,” St. Onge said. “So we have those Plan C’s in place, as well.”

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Koczera said the school would be reaching out to health officials to help determine the safest way to move students into one area.

“We would be reaching out to public health to find a safe, viable way to still provide those levels of support and services,” Koczera said.

So, while students have been preparing themselves to return to the University, HSU has been preparing for ways to help the student body through these issues.

“It’s important for students to know that as an outcome of last year’s PSPSs, there’s been a group of folks, housing facilities, management, that have been working really hard,” St. Onge said. “We are prepared.”

“Our commitment to supporting their educational work on campus is a serious commitment that we take,” St. Onge said.

“The goal of the University has always been to get to a point where these PSPS events or rolling blackouts have the least amount of impact possible on our campus and on our students and on our ability to continue through the educational process,” said Koczera.

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