MU Power Plant nationally recognized as environmentally friendly facility

Monday, June 21, 2010 | 11:21 a.m. CDT; updated 6:44 p.m. CDT, Monday, June 21, 2010
A MU power plant received a 2010 EPA Energy Star Combined Heat and Power (CHP) award from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. MU is one of three universities in the nation recently recognized with the honor; the others were the University of California in San Diego and Fairfield University.

COLUMBIA — The 118-year-old power plant at MU has been nationally recognized for its energy efficiency.

The MU Power Plant received a 2010 EPA Energy Star Combined Heat and Power award from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency. MU is one of three universities in the nation recently recognized with the honor; the others were the University of California in San Diego and Fairfield University in Fairfield, Ct.

"Our efforts to provide reliable, efficient and clean energy have not gone unnoticed," said Karlan Seville, communications manager for MU Campus Facilities. "We are proud of the reputation we've earned at the national and international level."

According to the Campus Facilities website, MU has been operating a combined heating and power plant since 1892, supplying energy and cooling and heating for buildings, which total more than 13 million square feet, including three hospitals, the research reactor and several research facilities.

The 66-megawatt plant uses coal, gas, tire-derived fuel and biomass to produce both steam and electricity.

MU's combined heat and power system uses nearly 38 percent less fuel than typical systems by mixing on-site thermal generation with purchased electricity. The plant reduces carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 107,000 tons per year. This reduction is equivalent to the annual emissions from more than 17,900 passenger vehicles, according to the website.

MU plans to expand the use of renewable biomass in the plant with the addition of a biomass-fired boiler, which will reduce emissions. Biomass burned in the plant will come from within 75 miles of MU's power plant, Seville said.

"Being an environmentally friendly campus is important," Seville added.

The plant has been reducing energy usage by 10 percent per square foot and greenhouse emissions by 12 percent per square foot since 1990. MU has saved an average of $6.6 million annually over the past 20 years, the Campus Facilities website said.

The plant's awards include:

  • 2008 Energy Efficiency award from the National Wildlife Federation
  • 2004 International District Energy Association's System of the Year award
  • 2001 Energy Star Partner of the Year award

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Kevin Gamble June 21, 2010 | 5:46 p.m.

Coal plants are widely known as major polluters of their vicinities with mercury. Has any measurement or research been done on whether the MU plant deposits mercury in its vicinity, and if so, how much? This may not apply to this plant, but I've never seen confirmation.

I still remember years ago, when I worked at MU in an office near the power plant, the office windowsills would be coated in coal dust. I've been curious about the contents of the power plant's output ever since.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 22, 2010 | 6:27 a.m.

mU's power plant likely does deposit some mercury with its fly ash. They collect most of it in their baghouse, however. I understand it's considered one of the cleanest coal plants (to 1980's standards, not CO2-wise) in the country.

Since we also spread coal ash (different type, but still likely to contain some level of heavy metals) on our streets in the winter, it would be difficult to tell where any mercury was coming from. I suspect most of it, from any source, winds up going down a storm sewer somewhere and off to the river, where it's heavily diluted to near natural levels.

Getting poisoned by mercury these days is pretty low on the scale of relative risk. Bathing, climbing stairs, and being outside in a thunderstorm are all far more likely to canuse injury or death. Driving, of course, is orders of magnitude riskier.


(Report Comment)
colleen moore June 28, 2010 | 12:29 p.m.

MU deserves praise for improving its energy efficiency and reducing its carbon footprint. Combined heat and power (CHP) is one of the few ways to cut energy costs and greenhouse emissions at the same. We should be doing much more of this throughout the country. I only wish more people knew about CHP and other forms of energy recycling. Anyone looking for more information should go to, the website of Recycled Energy Development, a company doing great work in the field of energy recycling.

(Report Comment)
Mark Foecking June 28, 2010 | 7:30 p.m.

The reason we don't use a lot of combined heat and power is, most of the time, our electricity comes from far away. In MU's case, most of their power is consumed on campus, which is a convenient distance to also run and maintain steam lines for heating.

There's also the issue of size. The waste heat from a large power plant like Iatan II could not be effectively distributed as steam. The network of pipes would be too long, and too difficult to maintain, to make it worthwhile. Same with C W & L's plant (even though it's smaller) on the Business Loop - their heating customers would be mostly too far away to make it economical.

CHP really only works well in certain situations, and while I think it could be used more, there are significant costs and disadvantages to it that keep it from general use.


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