Marko Trstenjak, 50, a contractor at the college working on maintenance repairs as part of the routine when power troubles occur on campus. Photo credit: Phaedra Hamer

Right before the winter break, students and faculty experienced two power outages at the Woodroffe campus: one was a planned outage in order for staff to make repairs and maintenance. The other was an unplanned interruption caused by an unknown malfunction in the electrical system.

As students and faculty rely heavily on access to power, internet and hydro services while on campus, power disruptions are never easy.

Manon Levesque, 49, the associate director of the facilities operations maintenance and engineering services on campus, said the power outages that happened on campus were caused by a malfunction in the campus’s main electrical system.

“It’s not easy on us, and we have a lot of pressure in our job,” she said. “We make sure to we work quickly and efficiently because a lot of facilities on campus rely on power like residence and the food being kept fresh for students.”

Each part of the system is controlled by a program designed by the department. The program consists of guidelines telling certain parts to move one way or another and how to react to those movements.

In the instance of the unplanned outage, there was a programming error. This means one part of the whole system couldn’t interact correctly with the other parts.

One of many parts in the main electrical room containing the two mega-watt co-generators that run power to the entire college. Photo credit: Phaedra Hamer

Algonquin’s power runs through the Hydro Ottawa. There is just one line of power that runs from Hydro to the campus.

If the college were to have two lines of power, explained Levesque, it would be easy to switch from one to the other when facing power difficulties.

The unpredictability of when and where these outages happen make it difficult for students to be prepared.

Alex Watt, 33-year old interactive media management student, said she uses Brightspace every day and having the ability to use it is vital for any student on campus.

“It can be frustrating at times, but things have definitely improved since the start of the [first] semester,” she said.

When the unplanned outage happened before Christmas, firs-year nursing student, Kate Piggot, 18, who lives on residence, work up at 3 a.m. to discover that the power wasn’t working.

She was worried about her food in the fridge and about whether she would make it to her early class on time. “I had a class at 8 a.m. that morning and couldn’t fall back asleep” Piggot said.

Next summer, Algonquin will continue to work on any needed repairs and flaws in the system, as well as invest in a $3 million high voltage system that will be more reliable.

“Students can prepare by having devices that take batteries, like flashlights,” said Levesque. “Radio is important too, so that students can be informed about what’s happening.”