Central Utilities Plant upgrade, Building 42C59 Vassar Street, Cambridge, MA
Status: In construction
Themes: Renovation and renewal
Upgrades at the Central Utilities Plant (CUP) will help MIT lower emissions, improve campus resiliency and sustainability, and create a more flexible power system for incorporating future innovations.
Themes and priorities
Since 1995, MIT has produced a portion of its own power on campus through a combined heat and power (CHP) process, also known as cogeneration. The plant’s natural gas turbine is approaching the end of its useful life, and MIT has initiated a project to replace this turbine, add a second turbine, and complete additional upgrades.
The upgraded Central Utilities Plant (CUP) will conserve energy and lower emissions while also improving the resiliency of the campus. Newer, more efficient equipment and state-of-the-art controls will reduce regulated pollutant emissions by more than 25% from 2014 levels and will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 10% in 2020, which will offset a projected 10% increase from 2014 GHG emissions levels due to energy demands created by new buildings and program growth. By 2020, the plant will run entirely on natural gas, eliminating the use of fuel oil except for emergencies and testing. In most situations when outside power is lost, the new turbines will maintain or restore heat and electricity for the majority of campus, safeguarding residences and protecting vital research.
By upgrading the cogeneration plant, MIT is creating a flexible power system that positions the Institute to explore emerging sustainability and efficiency measures. Able to adapt and evolve in response to advances in the energy field, the new plant is central to MIT’s commitment to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at least 32% by 2030.
Construction on the plant is underway. Both new turbines are projected to be in service in 2020.
- Two new 22-megawatt natural gas turbines and heat recovery steam generators provide electricity, steam, and chilled water to campus
- New turbines can be started even in the absence of external power
- Plant equipment designed and sited to keep key components above the anticipated 500-year flood level
- Increased capacity enables the plant to meet nearly 100% of campus electricity and thermal needs (up from 60%) during most operating and weather conditions
- Location inside plant for new Eversource regulator station that gives MIT access to high-pressure gas and allows Eversource to enhance their distribution system within the City of Cambridge
Sustainable Design Elements
- High-efficiency cogeneration process that uses one fuel (natural gas) to produce two types of energy (electric and thermal)
- Upgraded plant will run entirely on natural gas except in emergencies and testing situations
- Best Available Control Technology (BACT) incorporated
- State-of-the-art emissions controls including selective catalytic reduction that will reduce NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions by 90%
- Dedicated continuous emissions monitoring system (CEMS)
- Boilers converted to burn either natural gas or #2 fuel oil, eliminating the use of #6 oil on campus
- Rooftop system will capture rainwater for use in the facility’s cooling towers, easing the burden on the city storm water system; storm water on the perimeter site area will be captured by rain gardens and through groundwater recharge