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MU Power Plant Draws Attention from EPA for Efficiency

Facility will install first 100-percent biomass boiler in 2012

June 18th, 2010

Story Contact: Christian Basi, 573-882-4430,
Gary Ward, associate vice chancellor, Campus Facilities, oversees the MU Power Plant, which was recognized recently by the EPA.

Gary Ward, associate vice chancellor, Campus Facilities, oversees the MU Power Plant, which was recognized recently by the EPA.

COLUMBIA, Mo. ­— It has burned corncobs, used tires, waste wood and switchgrass, all in an effort to keep people comfortable. With a capacity of producing up to 66 megawatts of electricity and 1.1 million pounds of steam per hour, the University of Missouri’s Power Plant is responsible for supplying energy and cooling and heating for buildings that total more than 13 million square feet, including three hospitals, the research reactor and several research facilities. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recognized the power plant with a 2010 EPA Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) award recipient, making it one of only three universities in the nation recently recognized with the honor.

“MU is very proud of Energy Management’s track record of improving campus energy efficiency while reducing energy costs and lowering emissions,” said Gary Ward, associate vice chancellor, Campus Facilities. “We are looking forward to adding a new biomass boiler to our CHP system in 2012 to build on the success we have already achieved.”

The award from the EPA recognized those power plants that produced energy efficiently while decreasing air pollution. MU’s operating efficiency is more than 70 percent, compared to conventional fossil-fueled power plants, which are only about 30 percent efficient, according to the EPA. Other universities recognized at this time were the University of California in San Diego and Fairfield University, located in Fairfield, Conn.

“Combined heat and power is an efficient, clean, and reliable approach to generating power and thermal energy from a single fuel source,” said Susan Wickwire, Chief of the Energy Supply and Industry Branch, Environmental Protection Agency. “CHP plays an important role in reducing the environmental impact of power generation. We applaud the University of Missouri’s effort because the improvement in efficiency translates to a reduction in total fossil fuel use, reduced emissions of air pollutants and carbon dioxide, the leading greenhouse gas contributor to global climate change.”

MU has been producing heat and electricity using CHP since 1892.  MU’s CHP system uses nearly 38 percent less fuel than typical systems using onsite thermal generation with purchased electricity. MU’s CHP system also reduces CO2 emissions by an estimated 107,000 tons per year. This reduction is equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 17,900 passenger vehicles.

MU is recognized nationally as a leader in energy efficiency and conservation, reducing energy usage by 10 percent per square foot and greenhouse gas emissions by 12 percent per square foot since 1990. Over the past 20 years, MU has saved an average of $6.6 million annually. Other awards include the 2008 Energy Efficiency award from the National Wildlife Federation, 2004 International District Energy Association’s System of the Year award, and 2001 Energy Star Partner of the Year award.

Power Plant staff work directly with researchers to search for alternative fuels and more efficient means to heat, cool and power the campus. Currently, MU’s forestry department is helping develop specifications for fuel for the biomass boiler to ensure the health and value of Missouri’s forests, while other forestry faculty are exploring the feasibility of growing woody biomass to utilize in the power plant.