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April 12, 2016

MSU’s coal-free move reducing university’s environmental impact

Michigan State University is no longer burning coal in its on-campus power plant, a move that is significantly reducing emissions from the plant as well as advancing the university’s Energy Transition Plan.

MSU President Lou Anna K. Simon made the announcement during a live webcast titled “A Conversation with President Simon about MSU’s Energy Future.”

“This is a critical step toward our university reducing its environmental impact and furthering the goals of the campus Energy Transition Plan,” Simon said. “One of our greatest challenges is how to reliably meet the university’s growing energy needs. This will help us meet those needs in a more sustainable fashion.”

Since 2009-10, MSU has decreased greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent. By completing the switch from coal to all natural gas, it will allow the university to surpass its 2015 greenhouse gas reduction target of 30 percent.

Using natural gas instead of coal to power the campus results in a reduction in CO2 emissions of about 32.4 percent.

One other way to look at it: The average tree absorbs a net of about 1,000 pounds of CO2 over its lifetime. MSU’s use of natural gas has a similar impact to greenhouse gas reduction to planting about a half million trees each year.

“This is a very special day,” said Satish Udpa, MSU executive vice president for administrative services. “Special because it symbolizes the progress we’ve made in the last few years on how we consume energy, how we produce energy, and how we look around the corner in planning for meeting our energy requirements.”

Adopted in 2012, MSU’s Energy Transition Plan provides a framework for university energy decisions as it continues to move forward in meeting its needs while keeping a close eye on costs and environmental impacts. The ultimate vision – through conservation, research and education – is to create an environment in which the university is powered by 100 percent renewable energy.

The university also is focusing and prioritizing energy efficiency and new technologies to reduce greenhouse gas emission

Here are some examples.

  • Building inspections and energy audits are taking place in facilities across campus. A university commissioning team is working to improve energy efficiency by utilizing new conservation methods.
  • The Spartan Treasure Hunt engages employees with their building systems to improve overall efficiency and environmental effectiveness. Through observation, measurement and inquiry, teams of building occupants and facilities experts produce a list of resource-saving opportunities that are then considered through the building commissioning process.
  • The campus power plant is going beyond just using natural gas but reducing CO2 emissions further by installing more efficient equipment and optimizing the campus electrical and steam production process. Through a cooperative agreement, campus faculty and staff, together with private researchers, are demonstrating greenhouse gas capture technology using algae at the campus power plant.

By: Tom Oswald

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