Behind the Scenes of Pitt's Victory Lights

In this episode of Yinzer Backstage Pass, we visit the University of Pittsburgh’s Energy Center in Oakland to see how the folks there manage energy use — and outages — across the campus.

Until recently, I had no idea that the Pitt Energy Center existed. In fact, the idea for this segment came about in a roundabout way that started when we were filming a Yinzer Backstage Pass segment at a Duquesne Light substation. One of the folks I interviewed, Richard Saporito, sent me an email after our filming and asked if we’d ever looked into how the “Victory Lights” at Pitt’s Cathedral of Learning are triggered after every sports victory.

Now I was curious. I reached out to the communications team at Pitt, and they invited me to visit the Energy Center. Of course, the celebratory lights are just one of the many, many things they do at the Energy Center.

Al Agostinelli, director of building systems at Pitt, showed me around the office, which reminded me of NASA’s mission control center with its array of monitors displaying mysterious stats and machine diagrams. From this spot, Al can monitor or control 900,000 different points across the Oakland campus. That way, his team is always on top of power outages, heating issues, tripped fuses or countless other problems that might need to be addressed.

We were joined by Aurora Sharrard, University of Pittsburgh’s executive director of sustainability, who explained how this high-tech monitoring helps to run the campus more efficiently. In the past four years, they’ve saved a million dollars because of careful energy use.

If you want more Yinzer Backstage Pass, check out our visit to the Eat’n Park test kitchen where we learned how to frost a Smiley Cookie.