Austin
12:35 pm
Wed December 8, 2010

Why Don't We Have Backup Power To Keep Us On Air During Outages?

During our mini-crisis this morning, when the power was cut to several dozen buildings at the University of Texas and KUT went off the air, some people on were wondering, "Why don't y'all have some backup power?"

Our 100,000 watt transmitter does have a backup generator, which is why you would have heard silence if you tuned in this morning between 7 and 8:30. If the transmitter lost power, you would have heard nothing but radio static.

The transmitter's backup generator was installed a few years ago to help KUT deal with Austin Energy outages in Westlake Hills, where the transmitter is located.

But here in the CMB Building on the UT Campus, it's a different story. We aren't on Austin Energy's grid; UT has its own power system, which was considered virtually infallible by its engineers, until a couple recent outages.

"We are on UT power and that makes this a very rare occurrence," KUT associate general manager Hawk Mendenhall said.  He said there have been discussions in the past about installing backup generator just for the KUT control room, but that it was "cost prohibitive" to do in this building.

However, when KUT moves into its new building across the street in 2012, we will have a natural gas generator, Mendenhall said. Having natural gas as the power source means the generator could run indefinitely in the event of a long term outage.

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