MU environmental engineer details challenges for long-term sustainability

7 months 2 weeks 1 day ago Thursday, March 28 2019 Mar 28, 2019 Thursday, March 28, 2019 2:52:10 PM CDT March 28, 2019 in News
By: Jovan Gjorgovski, KOMU 8 Visiting Journalist

COLUMBIA -- The University of Missouri’s sustainability manager detailed the flagship campus’ challenges in meeting long-term sustainability deadlines.

The plant is supposed to be carbon emissions free by the year 2050, according to Srinivasan Raghavan, the university’s sustainability manager. The chimneys at the Mizzou power plant are already producing 40 percent renewable energy.

“One of the major challenges is forecasting technology. Because renewable energy continues to evolve,” Raghavan said. “By 2035 we’ll get pretty close to our goal, say about 80 percent, and I am speaking for the MU Campus, we can get up to 80 percent. But beyond that to get to net zero emissions we’re not sure how we are going to get there at this point.”

The primary source for the power plant is still biomass, a timber-derived product capable of being converted into energy, but that can all change in a couple of years. The campus already has several solar panels on the buildings, and wind turbines in large numbers might become a regular sight in and around Columbia.

Raghavan explained the campus gets about 12 percent of its energy from wind power. Raghavan said the campus is in the initial stages of talking about adding solar energy.

He doesn’t expect the biomass fuel, which now produces one-third of the plant’s energy, to rise any further. But he added he is not sure how the plant will be fueled in the future.

“We are unsure what the fuel mix will be. But we are in the very initial stages, we’re just talking about solar,” he said.

Raghavan pointed out another serious challenge is getting to zero net carbon emissions in the middle of serious budget cuts, but he believes it is a challenge worth taking.

The university plans are in sync with the city’s, but the timelines are a bit different. Columbia is supposed to be relying completely upon renewable energy by the year 2060.

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