MIT Central Utilities Plant

MIT’s Central Utilities Plant

MITOS has partnered with the Department of Facilities to explore and maximize features and strategies in the planned upgrades to the Central Utilities Plant.

In 2015, MIT began the permitting phase for renovations to its Central Utilities Plant (CUP). The renovations are essential as the current co-generation turbine is nearing the end of its useful life. The renovation also allows MIT to dramatically increase the plant’s energy efficiency and build a next generation power plant that will become the foundation of a low-carbon future.

The Central Utility Plant renewal project – targeted for completion in 2020 – will deploy state-of-the-art power generation equipment and provide significant improvements to MIT’s utility systems that will increase efficiency and reduce GHG emissions.  MIT will be able to substantially reduce its emissions with upgraded equipment and capabilities at the CUP including: 

  • Using natural gas for all normal operations, lowering the plant's regulated pollutant emissions more than 25 percent from 2014 emissions levels. This fuel is the same natural gas that is used to heat homes.
  • Updating the plant so that its emissions in 2020 will be 10 percent lower than 2014 plant emissions, even as modeling shows that energy demands on campus will have increased due to new buildings and other research requirements.
  • Installing two new gas turbines that will be more efficient and emit fewer pollutants than the plant’s existing turbine. The new turbines will have a lower exhaust temperature, and use state-of-the-art controls to reduce pollutants. These controls include two different catalysts that will reduce the plant’s NOx (nitrogen oxides) emissions by 90 percent compared to the current system.
  • Installing a condensing economizer (hot water) coil to capture additional waste heat from the exhaust stream after the heat recovery steam generation process. MIT plans to distribute the resulting heated water around campus through an expanded medium temperature hot water loop, to provide heat and hot water to MIT buildings. This will raise the efficiency of the plant’s overall operation and enable MIT to further reduce its greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Enabling MIT to eliminate the use of fuel oil in campus power generation by 2020. A new gas service agreement with Eversource will enable the cogeneration plant to run entirely on natural gas with the exception of emergencies and testing.

MIT’s co-generation upgrade will serve as a bridge to future energy technologies and equipment. Flexible in its design and adaptable to change, the system will enable MIT to incorporate innovations as they emerge, improving plant efficiency and optimizing operations. As the 21st century unfolds, MIT will continue to pursue new energy solutions in our own campus energy management strategy. Our energy strategy will evolve alongside changes to the CUP in order to take advantage of emerging climate-positive technologies and approaches.

In addition, MIT plans on using the new facility to explore campus research and learning opportunities with our faculty, students, and staff to advance our living laboratory platform.

Project Partners

  • Department of Facilities
  • Office of Sustainability
  • Office of Campus Planning

Additional information