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(N) Simon Power Plant

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(N) Simon Power Plant
(N) Simon Power Plant
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Subjects: Buildings
Description: By Phase IV Michigan State College had developed into Michigan State University. As the demand and cost of energy continued to increased for the college, the Michigan legislature cut support for higher education in 1957. As MSU President Hannah lamented, this required that the “cost of water, lights, and other utilities be charged against income from dormitories and married housing units, which had the effect of forcing a substantial increase in rates charged to students.”

As a result of the baby boom, by 1962 approximately 12,000 students lived in university dorms (the largest on campus living for the United States), yet the on campus energy resources had become insufficient.

Faced with the difficulty of supporting additional energy needs MSU was forced to consider the expensive option of buying electricity from nearby sources. Instead, MSU began the construction of Power Plant 65, now T.B. Simon Power Plant to meet all of campus energy needs. A 1963 State News article explained that with this new power plant MSU could “generate electricity cheaply because of its dual use of steam”, steam was first used to generate electricity and then used for heating.

Between 1965 and 1998 the Simon Plant underwent ten additions and expansions. Today, the plant is in the top 500 generating plants in American producing 1.3 million pounds of steam per hour and 100 mega watts of energy.

Today MSU fuels the Simon Plant by coal, natural gas and biofuel sources. Yet the university has relied on coal, a cheap fossil fuel, as the main fuel source since the end of Phase I. Unfortunately coal is a high emitter of greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and other pollutants. Burning coal causes environmental and health consequences and its diminishing availability has resulted in higher fuel prices.

The Simon Power Plant has received many pollution violations and fines, the first of which was issued by the Michigan Air Pollution Control Commission in 1969. In 1977 after delaying the purchase of the equipment necessary to fix the emission problems, the EPA charged the plant in a formal hearing for pollution emissions “more than six times the accepted federal level.” In 2001 the plant was fined $79,734 for failing to report high amounts of sulfur dioxide emissions and failing to monitor nitrogen oxide toxins. Finally as recently as 2010 the Department of Natural Resources and Environment, the DNRE, fined the university $27,000 for violations occurring in 2008. Student groups advocating for MSU to stop coal usage attended the hearing and emphasized the need for more action.

Currently the university’s long term engery goal is to reduce campus consumption and greenhouse emissions by 15% by 2015 and “set more aggressive goals for the future.”
Date: October 25, 1965
Format: Image/jpg
Original Format: Black and white photograph
Resource Identifier: A0001921.jpg
Language: English
Rights Management: Educational use only, no other permissions given. Copyright to this resource is held by Michigan State University and is provided here for educational purposes only. It may not be reproduced or distributed in any format without written permission of the University Archives & Historical Collections, Michigan State University.
Contributing Institution: University Archives & Historical Collections
Relation: MSU Photograph Collection
Contributor: MSU Archives and Historical Collections
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