Cutting campus greenhouse gas emissions
Almost since its founding, MSU has generated its own steam for building heating and electricity, retooling and updating the operation over the years with technological advancements and changing needs in the community.
The university was an early adopter of microgrid technology
, producing its own electricity and operating its own microgrid since 1894. Microgrids are now recognized for their reliability and cost savings. Today, MSU’s T.B. Simon Power Plant uses steam to generate electricity in a process known as co-generation. Steam from this process is also used to heat and cool most buildings on campus.
Turbine generator 5 takes steam energy produced by the boilers at 900 pounds-per-square-inch and converts it into energy that is used to produce electricity. Photo by Gabbi Ahlborn.
“Co-generation operates at its most efficient when we are able to maximize the electricity produced from the amount of steam needed for campus heating and cooling,” says Jett. “We are constantly looking for operational adjustments that can improve efficiency and make an impact.”
The recent addition of reciprocating internal combustion engines and a high-efficiency boiler — separate electric and steam production equipment — has resulted in higher overall efficiencies for the power plant as well as a reduction in fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions, often referred to as greenhouse gas.
“The engines and new natural gas-fired steam boiler are our largest steps forward in environmental stewardship since eliminating coal use in 2016,” adds Jett.
MSU’s solar carport array is the largest in North America, covering more than 5,000 parking spaces. Photo by Derrick L. Turner.
MSU has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by more than 40% since 2010 through measures that include eliminating coal as a fuel source, incorporating energy efficiency improvements, installing solar carport arrays and an anaerobic digester
that generates electricity from campus organic waste, and implementing energy conservation measures.
“Conservation is good for everyone. The less that is needed, the less that needs to be produced; this results in lower costs and less emissions,” says Jett.
While MSU receives rebates for its energy reduction efforts every year, the most recent rebate
was significant — nearly $1.5 million. It represents carbon emissions savings equivalent to approximately what 85,500 trees would absorb over 10 years.
In addition to the enhancements at the power plant
, other efforts that contribute to rebates include upgrading HVAC units in multiple buildings, transitioning to LED lightbulbs
across campus, managing laboratory fume hood operations and growing the university’s fleet of electric vehicles