Burns Engineering Inc.: Temple University Microgrid: Campus Electrical Infrastructure Modernization

System overhaul of an educational facility

By Burns Engineering Inc. August 17, 2015

Engineering firm: Burns Engineering Inc.
2015 MEP Giants rank: 61
Project: Temple University Microgrid: Campus Electrical Infrastructure Modernization
Address: Philadelphia, United States
Building type: Educational facility
Project type: System overhaul (e.g., mechanical system upgrade, fire protection system overhaul, etc.)
Engineering services: Automation, controls; Electrical, power; Energy, sustainability
Project timeline: 2/2/2009 to 1/15/2014
MEP/FP budget: $1,000,000


Temple University occupies a 105-acre urban campus, with plans for significant development through 2020. More than 15,000 students living on or near the urban campus rely on the university to provide reliable power to residential dormitories, health and police facilities, as well as the other 60 university buildings on campus. Temple’s strong growth projections and evolving needs required the university to re-examine its campus infrastructure to make sure that it could properly support the demands of a large, modern, world-class university. There were significant challenges to this multiyear, multiphase project:

  • Temple wanted to improve its capability to identify power outages, monitor electricity usage, study peak demand, and to participate in demand response with the PJM (the regional transmission organization).
  • Temple needed new electrical infrastructure throughout the campus, without interruptions to the school, students, faculty, and related operations.
  • The project presented the challenge and opportunity to engineer a new model for the modern campus microgrid.
  • Temple wanted to create a more resilient electrical infrastructure.
  • Designing and implementing an urban microgrid while working around an extensive network of existing underground utilities within the city streets.


Burns worked with Temple University and collaborated with major stakeholders like the local utility, PECO, to plan and design a campus electrical-infrastructure modernization that would result in providing the university its own modern, fully functional microgrid with the capacity, resilience, and operational flexibility required to support Temple’s campus. This modern microgrid includes more than 14 miles of underground cables, two large utility-service substations, and a 16-MW central generating facility.

The project included a new power-monitoring system that displays the near real-time power use across the system. This enables Temple to identify outages in the system and quickly work to get power back to those areas on campus. It also is used as an energy-management tool showing and recording the electricity usage and peak demand for each of the incoming utility lines and temple feeders. With this data, Temple can make near-real-time decisions to run the generation facility to minimize their external peak demand, participate in demand response with PJM creating additional revenue for the university, or reduce loads on the system.

Burns successfully phased the cutovers for all 5 utility lines, 2 generator plant ties, and more than 20 temple feeders without impacting the daily life of Temple’s student body and surrounding community. Burns’ knowledge of underground utility systems minimized construction costs and provided an enhanced system that will give the university a larger, more robust and reliable system.

This project’s innovative features and capabilities established a new model for the modern campus microgrid, transforming the way power is generated, distributed, and consumed. The Temple microgrid represents a major step toward reinventing the campus electrical infrastructure to address the traditional grid’s vulnerabilities and leverage new technologies. This system of new substations, distribution, and generation facility interconnection created a campus microgrid that is extremely resilient in its ability to withstand outages in the main utility grid. Superstorm Sandy and other recent events have shown the vital importance of electrical resiliency.

The system was designed for a very high level of redundancy and reliability. There were more than five utility lines from three different utility substations. If any of the utility lines lost power, Temple’s electrical equipment was programmed to automatically transfer loads to the utility lines available. In the case of a utilitywide blackout, Temple can tie all of their loads to the generation facility and continue to power the campus. This new microgrid included more than 3,500 ft of 12-way concrete-encased ductbank, more than 14 miles of 500-kcmil 15-kV cable, more than 200 new 15-kV splices and modular connections, more than 125 new 15-kV terminations, and 42 new 15-kV vacuum circuit breakers.