U-M Central Power Plant expansion expected to reduce emissions

March 16, 2017

An aerial shot of the U-M campus.ANN ARBOR—A new combustion turbine at the University of Michigan’s Central Power Plant is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly, lowering emission levels halfway toward the university’s 2025 sustainability goal.

The 15-megawatt combustion turbine, which will be housed in a 12,000-square-foot addition, is expected to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 100,000 tons per year. That’s equivalent to the amount of energy used by 10,000 homes annually according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The $80 million project was approved Thursday by the U-M Board of Regents.

“Our targeted greenhouse gas emissions reduction is an ambitious goal and this project marks a significant step in the right direction as well as providing a sound financial projection for the university,” said Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The Central Power Plant provides heat and power to most central and medical campus buildings.

First constructed in 1915, it was converted from coal to natural gas as a primary fuel in the 1960s to operate more efficiently. The current cogeneration system uses steam to heat buildings and waste steam to generate electricity resulting in an overall efficiency of 80 percent.

The addition of the turbine to the Central Power Plant was among the efforts recommended to U-M President Mark Schlissel to improve progress toward the university’s sustainability goals, specifically the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2006 levels by 2025.

The avoidance in emissions is made possible through the onsite cogeneration technology that produces less greenhouse gas emissions than regional power sources.

The project will require a Michigan Department of Environmental Quality air emission permit and will incorporate all appropriate pollution control technologies. The architectural firm of Black & Veatch will design the project, which is anticipated to provide an average of 130 on-site construction jobs.

Project funding will be provided from utility resources. The project will return to the Board of Regents for approval of schematic design and the construction schedule.