In 1855, when Michigan State University opened, all of the buildings were heated with wood fireplaces. A series of fires drove leaders to find a solution.
In 1890 MSU built a central power plant to provide heat for the buildings. All buildings were connected to steam pipes in a system called “district heating.”
The construction of the Shaw Lane Power Plant in 1948 met the serious need for energy facility improvements.
The T.B. Simon Power Plant is the third power plant on MSU's campus.
In total, the power plant has five units that provide power to MSU, and now burns only natural gas:
Units No. 1 and No. 2, were built in 1965 and burned pulverized coal and gas,
Unit No. 3 was built in 1973 and burned coal and gas,
and Unit No. 4, a fluidized bed burner that burned coal, gas, and biofuel, was built in 1993.
In 2006, the plant added another boiler featuring the newest technology for burning natural gas. It powers two turbines:
Unit No. 5, a steam turbine/generator and
Unit No. 6, a natural gas combustion turbine and a companion waster heat/heat-recovery steam generator.
The additions of Units No. 5 and No. 6 provided the plant with the Blackstart capability. The Blackstart capability allows the power plant to restart itself on its own if the university were to lose power.