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University of Montana breaks ground on new power plant

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Posted at 4:59 PM, Nov 23, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-23 22:34:45-05

MISSOULA — The nearly 100-year-old steam plant building on the University of Montana campus is getting an updated look as the university aims to provide its own heat and power.

“This is a project through which we will significantly reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that this university generates,” explained UM President Seth Bodnar.

UM grad student Sam Gilbertson -- who is also a sustainability research assistant -- says the university was responsible for over 9,600 metric tons of C02 solely from its electricity consumption. That is a number that will be significantly reduced with the new plant.

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“What this means for us looking forward is about a 30% reduction in the greenhouse gas emissions that are generated from us powering and heating our buildings,"” Gilbertson said.

The finished plant will provide the University of Montana with the ability to create its own energy and power by combining heat and power in state-of-the-art technology.

“Right now, what they're doing -- they're burning gas in a traditional boiler and they waste a lot of heat out the stack. And what we're gonna do is burn the gas and a gas turbine. The waste heat out of that gas turbine is going to go through a heat recovery boiler so we're really using the gas twice. Once to make electricity and then another time to make steam to heat the campus.” - McKinstry project director Jeff Davis

Along with reducing the university’s carbon footprint, the new addition to the plant will save the university between $1.5 million and $2 million a year.

“[What we are doing] is building this new combined heat and power plant in a way that operates sustainably and will serve Montanans for generations to come," said Bondar.

The university aims at having the plant up and running in 2022.

CORRECTION: The article originally stated the University was responsible for over 96 metric tons of CO2 equivalent. It has been corrected to say the University is responsible for 9,600 metric tons of C02 solely from its electricity consumption.