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Michigan State UniversityMichigan State UniversityInfrastructure Planning and Facilities
Image of the T.B. Simon Power Planet displaying how energy is generated. A pipeline pumps natural gas into a boiler, mixing with purified water. It lets off water vapor from the stacks on the top of the power plant. Energy is transferred into an energy, two arrows, one labeled steam to campus and another labeled electricity to campus point off the image.

Generating power

T.B. Simon Power Plant

The T.B. Simon Power Plant is a co-generation plant that provides steam, heat and electricity for the university. Also known as “combined heat and power,” the plant utilizes steam to generate electricity. Boilers create steam that passes through a turbine generator. The electricity and the steam are then distributed across campus. The steam is mainly used to heat and cool buildings. An easy way to think of the process is with the analogy of a tea kettle

There are five boilers inside the power plant and two steam lines serving campus. The two steam lines ensure that, in case one line needs to be serviced, the campus will never be without heat.

Process

The power plant is capable of utilizing various fuels: biomass, natural gas and coal. To learn about these and other fuels utilized on campus, visit the Sources page.

Fuel is burned in the boilers. After steam is super-heated, it turns the fan blades of the turbine. The fan blades are connected to generator, which uses the mechanical energy of the motion to generate electricity.

The steam and electricity is distributed from the power plant to MSU's campus through steam tunnels and electrical lines. For a visual representation, watch this animated process video.

Efficiency

The power plant capacity is 1.3 million pounds of steam and 100 megawatts. The historical peak demand of the campus is 63 megawatts.

Since the plant is co-generation, about 60 percent of the stored energy in fuel is converted to direct energy. For most conventional electric power plants, that number is only 35. The high efficiency is significant in keeping utility costs low.

Benefits

Some of the benefits of the power plant are increased reliability and lower cost. Since the T.B. Simon Power Plant has an underground system, traditional storm damage from winds is also avoided. In case of a power outage, the plant can be restarted with a natural gas combustion turbine to get it up and running again.

Due to its use of natural gas, MSU's generator and steam turbine was awarded the 2007 Pacesetter Plant Award from Combined Cycle Journal for its high-efficiency and clean production. For more information about how the plant uses natural gas and other fuels, visit the Sources page.

Emissions

Several measures are in place at the T.B. Simon Power Plant to reduce emissions in the atmosphere. The interactive guide below explains the type of emissions created through the fuel-burning process and the efforts in place to reduce their release into the air.

The charts below show some basic statistics for the T.B. Simon Power Plant for the past few years.

Emissions

 

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

CO2

538,179

472,801

-

 -

 -

SOX

2,1.7

809

473

542

307

NOX

739

476

490

459

437

PM10

13

17

18

19

20

T.B. Simon Power Plant began reporting greenhouse gas emissions (CO2) in 2010. The EPA methodology is used to calculate all fuels burned in all units at the power plant, which means the data does not include fuel burned in fleet vehicles or purchased electricity. Data are available at the EPA facility level GHG emissions data website.

(Previous CO2 emissions data were calculated using a different definition. Like the EPA method, this definition did not include purchased electricity, but it also did not include natural gas burned in the combustion turbine at the power plant.)

Detailed reports on the air emissions from the power plant from 1999 and after are available at the Department of Environmental Quality's website. The DEQ uses the Michigan Air Emissions Reporting System (MAERS) for its reporting.

Annual BTUs

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

2015

6,645,756

6,385,943

6,097,184

6,484,850

6,494,225

6,579,663

6,481,284.49

Note: Annual BTU's were adjusted for years 2008 through 2012 from previous measurements to account for miscelaneous gas usage. There will be another adjustment in 2014 for monthly BTU factors.

Fuel expenses

 

Fiscal year
'10-'11

Fiscal year
'11-'12

Fiscal year
'12-'13

Fiscal year
'13-'14

Fiscal year
'14-'15

Solid Fuel

$23,110,936.46

$16,904,019.30

$8,147,092,59

$8,248,186.61

$7,106,163.00

Gas

$9,747,766.56

$15,033,470.15

$18,364,512.26

$26,808,387.00

$26,221,174.50

Commodity rates

 

Fiscal year
'10-'11

Fiscal year
'11-'12

Fiscal year
'12-'13

Fiscal year
'13-'14

Fiscal year
'14-'15

Electricity (kWhr)

$0.091

$0.102

$0.097

$0.090

$0.080

Steam (1,000 pounds)

$18.293

$20.20

$20.20

$16.41

$17.17