Plans are moving forward for the expansion at the University of Michigan’s Central Power Plant to make room for new equipment that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly on campus.

A 12,000-square-foot addition to the power plant is being built to house a 15-megawatt combustion turbine that will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by an estimated 80,000 metric tons per year, lowering emission levels approximately halfway toward the university’s 2025 sustainability goal.

The Board of Regents approved the schematic design and construction schedule for the project on Thursday during its monthly meeting. Regents approved the $80 million project and the appointment of Black & Veatch as the architectural firm in March.

“Our targeted greenhouse gas emissions reduction is an ambitious goal and this project marks a significant step in the right direction as well as providing a sound financial projection for the university,” says Kevin Hegarty, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

The Central Power Plant provides heat and power to most Central and Medical campus buildings.

First constructed in 1915, it was converted from coal to natural gas as a primary fuel in the 1960s to operate more efficiently. The current cogeneration system uses steam to heat buildings and waste steam to generate electricity, resulting in an overall efficiency of 80 percent.

The addition of the turbine to the Central Power Plant was among the efforts recommended to President Mark Schlissel to improve progress toward the university’s sustainability goals, specifically the goal to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 25 percent below 2006 levels by 2025.

The avoidance in emissions is made possible through the onsite cogeneration technology that produces fewer greenhouse gas emissions than regional power sources.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality has approved the required air emission permit and the project will incorporate all appropriate pollution control technologies.

Project funding will be provided from utility resources.

The project will result in the loss of approximately eight business and service parking spaces.

The project is expected to provide an average of 130 on-site construction jobs.

Construction is scheduled to be completed in the winter of 2021.

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