MSU is transitioning its independent power grid to renewable energy. This long-term goal is gradually becoming a reality thanks to the commitment from the campus community, as well as the ingenuity of researchers and leaders in a variety of fields.
Lynda Boomer, energy and environmental engineer in Infrastructure Planning and Facilities, is always mindful of how energy is used on campus:
“Our facilities use a lot of energy. Laboratories use about four times the amount of energy as a classroom or office building. We also have one of the largest [university] residence hall systems and dining facilities [in the nation]. Campus continues to grow each year, and there’s a footprint to that—not just a physical footprint but an energy footprint as well.”
Drawing on input from staff, faculty and students, the Energy Transition Plan was approved as a set of long-term objectives regarding energy use at MSU. The overarching goals are for the university to reduce the energy footprint on campus, to develop and research renewable energy alternatives, and to become a worldwide leader in energy efficiency and technology.
As ideas and goals were being refined, planning-model software allowed the team to create scenarios for potential solutions. Boomer and the team asked themselves important questions:
“’What if we invested in solar? What would be the cost of utilities? What would the backup power need to be? What do we use at night?’ All of those are things we looked at in different scenarios, [with consideration for] how that changes campus and tuition costs.”
MSU currently has solar installations on the Livestock Pavilion and Surplus Store & Recycling Center, a geothermal system at the Life Science building, an anaerobic digester at the Dairy Research and Teaching Center, and is using some biomass to produce steam and electricity at the Simon Power Plant. Wind power, geothermal energy, ground- and rooftop-mounted solar panels, and different types of biomass are currently being studied for their potential output, environmental impact, economic feasibility and overall practicality, as MSU continues to assess their energy use through research, auditing and collaborations.