As the university’s Central Power Plant expansion project nears completion later this year, power plant personnel and contractors, under the supervision of the U-M Environment, Health & Safety Department, will be cleaning and testing new equipment starting July 19. The process is expected to last one to two weeks.

The expansion project involves adding a new combustion turbine and heat-recovery steam generator that will enable the university to reduce the amount of its utility-generated, coal-based purchased electricity. It is expected to reduce university-generated greenhouse gas emissions by 400,000 metric tons over 10 years — equivalent to removing more than 85,000 passenger vehicles from the road for one year.

The project was originally recommended by the 2015 President’s Committee on Greenhouse Gas Reduction.

​​The finished expansion will improve reliability throughout U-M’s electrical distribution system, featuring a microgrid power-preservation system that serves critical missions in health care and research. In addition, DTE Energy, in collaboration with U-M, has enhanced the reliability and capacity of the Ann Arbor power grid.

In order to complete the expansion, U-M will clean existing ducts, pipes, tunnels and stacks, and will begin testing new equipment thereafter. The cleaning process will result in temporary noise and visible steam at the ground level, which may be noticeable to individuals near the plant and Palmer Commons.

School of Public Health experts reviewed the cleaning and testing plans to ensure that noise and air quality levels will not be harmful. All equipment testing will be monitored by CPP contractors and construction personnel, and baseline monitoring will be conducted by EHS officials. EHS will continue to document and monitor air quality and ambient noise during initial equipment testing.

Once the new combustion turbine and heat-recovery steam generator are operational, there will be no noticeable changes from previous conditions at the CPP.

The cleaning and testing process will involve closing U-M sidewalks immediately adjacent to the CPP and along Palmer Drive, with signed detours.

Palmer Drive, west of the Palmer Drive Parking Structure’s east entry and exit, will be limited to construction and delivery traffic only. Access to the Palmer Parking Structure’s west entry and exit, as well as the Fletcher Parking Structure’s east entry and exit, will be closed. The Fletcher Parking Structure will remain accessible from Fletcher Street. 

In combination with the recent procurement of wind power from new, locally sourced DTE Energy wind parks, the Central Power Plant Expansion project will help the university meet its 2025 goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions for the Ann Arbor campus by 25 percent. With its completion later this year, U-M will meet this goal four years early.

The aforementioned wind parks began operating in April and will provide approximately half of the purchased electricity for the Ann Arbor campus. Two facilities in mid-Michigan’s Isabella County contain a total of 136 turbines with a capacity of 383 megawatts, making them the state’s largest wind parks. The third complex, Fairbanks Wind, is located in the Upper Peninsula’s Delta County and includes 21 turbines with a capacity of 72 megawatts. 

U-M also announced in May a universitywide commitment to achieving carbon neutrality, encompassing Scope 1, Scope 2 and Scope 3 greenhouse gas emissions across the Flint, Dearborn and Ann Arbor campuses, including Athletics and Michigan Medicine.

One facet of this commitment is a planned installation of geothermal exchange systems in conjunction with new construction projects, beginning with the Bob and Betty Beyster Building addition on North Campus, as a first step in a phased transition of heating and cooling systems.

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