Energy

Dome under construction
Photo: MIT News
Flexible energy systems and smart investments

MIT is world-renowned for its broad expertise in energy-related research, education, and invention. At the MIT Office of Sustainability (MITOS), we’re helping to leverage that knowledge to create a more sustainable, energy efficient, and high-performing campus, continuing a long tradition of energy efficiency.
 

Building on history, moving toward a sustainable future

In 1916, MIT designed, installed, and generated a state-of-the-art district utility system, which allowed the Institute to forego the installation of small-scale furnaces all across the campus. Over the last century, MIT has continued to prioritize energy efficiency - and more recently, renewable energy - across several project areas, which can be explored below. In 1995, MIT expanded its central utility plant to provide a natural gas-fired heat and power system to produce electricity and steam using co-generation, a process in which heat that would otherwise be lost out the exhaust stack is captured and reused. The continual use of cogeneration enables the Institute to create a flexible power system that can adapt and evolve in response to advances in the energy field.

In 2016, MITOS and the MIT Department of Facilities worked with partners across campus to form an alliance with Boston Medical Center and Post Office Square Redevelopment Corporation, enabling the construction of a 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm. MIT is purchasing 73 percent of the power generated by the new array, neutralizing 17 percent of the campus’ carbon emissions and demonstrating a commitment to developing renewable energy options. With a comprehensive and ambitious energy strategy, we are on our way to reducing greenhouse gas emissions by at least 32% by 2030—and aim to achieve carbon neutrality as soon as possible.

Strategies

Here are just a few of the energy strategies we’re advancing:

  • scale up campus-wide investments in energy efficiency across existing buildings while investing in new construction that maximizes performance

  • reduce our baseline emissions by 10 percent by replacing our combined heat and power system and making upgrades to the utility distribution systems

  • invest in renewable energy systems on campus and off—the purchase of solar energy equivalent to 40 percent of our present electricity use will neutralize emissions by 17 percent

  • create living labs that leverage faculty and student research, improve operations, identify new energy strategies, and promote community adoption and investment in sustainability efforts

MITOS Focus Areas

MITOS is currently working collaboratively to transform the campus energy systems via operations, education, research, and innovation in the following areas.

North Carolina Solar Farm
Off-Site Solar Farm (Power Purchase Agreement)

In 2016, MIT announced the formation of an innovative alliance to purchase electricity from a large new solar power installation via a  25-year power purchase agreement (PPA). The agreement has enabled the construction of a roughly 650-acre, 60-megawatt solar farm on farmland in North Carolina.

Solar PV on campus
On-Site Renewable Energy

MIT has a number of small-scale, on-site solar energy systems on its campus. These systems provide locally generated electricity and also offer opportunities for research and academic initiatives.

Energy Efficiency
Energy Efficiency

Energy efficiency is a cornerstone of MIT’s strategy to achieve its greenhouse gas reduction goal of reducing emissions by at least 32% by 2030, with 2014 as the baseline.

CoGen Plant
MIT Central Utilities Plant

The Office of Sustainability has partnered with the Department of Facilities to explore and maximize features and strategies to enhance efficiency, support demand-side reduction, and advance climate action in the planned upgrades to the Central Utilities Plant.

Additional MIT Initiatives

MITOS is part of a community of departments, labs, and centers working toward elements of a sustainable campus. Featured below are initiatives from some of our partners.

MITEI Logo
Low-Carbon Energy Centers

Collaborative research from the MIT Energy Initiative with industry and government in key technology areas to address climate change.

Photovoltaic Research Laboratory
Photovoltaic Research Laboratory: PV Systems

Mission: Leverage high-performance PV to enable qualitatively novel system-level functionality.

Center for 21st Century Energy
Center for 21st Century Energy

The Center for 21st Century Energy is dedicated to developing technologies for a sustainable energy future.

Evidence for Action on Energy Efficiency (E2e)
Evidence for Action on Energy Efficiency (E2e)

Through an interdisciplinary approach to the so-called ‘energy efficiency gap’, the center seeks to evaluate and strengthen policies and incentives for improved energy efficiency. 

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Key Energy Partners

The Department of Facilities is a key partner in all aspects of our campus energy work from designing and operating our Central Utility Plant as cleanly and efficiently as possible, to implementing campus-wide energy efficiency projects across campus. 

The MIT Energy Initiative through supporting campus energy activities, educational opportunities, and outreach has helped inform and shape the work we do.

The Center for Energy and Environmental Policy Research is helping to shape the financial analysis of a portfolio of energy projects for reducing campus greenhouse gas emissions. 

Office of the Vice President for Finance is a tremendous resource for many project areas including the analysis and due diligence review of off-campus renewable energy projects, green bonds, and greenhouse gas emissions inventory auditing.