nergy Management has answered a lot of “what ifs” since
mid-August’s power-outage in the northeast. EM Director,
Paul Hoemann is confident MU’s power is reliable.
“Because MU has its own power plant that is capable of producing
100 percent of the campus needs, the campus community depends on
us to keep operating regardless of what the situation is elsewhere
in the city, state or region,” he said.
Power generated from diverse sources
MU’s co-generation power plant uses several different fuel
sources including coal, natural gas, fuel oil and tire-derived
fuel. It has operated since 1923 from its location at Stewart Road
and Fifth Street, and today produces annually about two-thirds
of the power on campus. The remaining one-third is wholesale, low-cost,
interruptible electricity purchased off the nation’s power
grid, an intricate interconnection of power plants. At peak-use
times, MU is given at least a 30-minute warning before power flowing
from the grid to campus is interrupted, requiring MU to generate
100 percent of its own power.
|The MU Power Plant has operated since 1923 from its location
at Stewart Road and Fifth Street. It produces annually
of the power on campus.
“We were put to the test during the latest heat wave which
came at the same time students returned for the fall semester.
Our power from the grid was interrupted and we generated full power
without a problem,” said Ken Davis, EM’s assistant
From early investigations, it seems that a contributing factor
to the blackout in the northeast may have been an overheated transmission
line that came into contact with an untrimmed tree. This scenario
is unlikely at MU because all of MU’s electric distribution
system is underground, making it more reliable and safe while preserving
the aesthetics of the campus.
“Most universities our size do not have full capacity power
plants,” said Davis. “We are fortunate to have a power
plant that can produce enough power to keep the campus, including
the University Hospital, running regardless of any problems around
Reliability into the future
EM has planned well for future growth on campus. The power plant
has sufficient capacity to meet a growing campus’ electricity
needs for the next six to 10 years. In addition, new buildings
on campus have small emergency generators to provide power for
critical equipment in case of an underground power line failure.
Uninterruptible power is especially critical in areas where health
care and research are on-going, such as the University Hospital
and the Life Sciences Center, and in areas where large crowds assemble,
such as in Hearnes Center and the new basketball arena when it
A related problem caused by the blackout was loss of drinking
water to homes, businesses, and hospitals because electricity is
required to pump and distribute water. Energy Management has taken
steps to prevent a similar problem on campus. Back-up generators
and natural gas driven pumps at MU’s water pumping stations
ensure an adequate water supply in the event of a power outage.
In addition, MU and the City of Columbia are able to supplement
each other’s water supply if necessary.
“By being proactive and taking steps to ensure a reliable
utility supply, we’ve positioned ourselves to meet the energy
requirements of the campus even if a blackout occurs within the
national electric grid,” Hoemann said.