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MIT takes steps to conserve energy when demand increases on hot summer days

CAMBRIDGE, MA -- In anticipation of possible New England-wide power shortages this summer, the MIT Physical Plant staff is preparing to conserve electricity and cooling energy and maximize Cogeneration turbine output during very hot days.

At MIT's Cogeneration plant, preparations are underway to maximize the combustion turbine generator output by cooling the gas turbine inlet air using chilled water which is produced in the same plant used for Institute air conditioning. A gas turbine's output declines as inlet air temperature increases, so by cooling the air with chilled water during the hottest summer days, the lost output can be restored during the critical times for the regional power grid.

In addition, the MIT community plans to:

  • Shut off unnecessary lighting.
  • Shut down computers and lab equipment when not in use.
  • Conserve cool air in work areas by lowering blinds and closing doors to un-air-conditioned spaces.
  • Close fume hood sashes when not in use to minimize the amount of cool air drawn out of the room and wasted.

MIT has already undertaken a number of conservation programs over the years. Most recently, it was named the "Green Lights" 1996 Partner of the Year by the EPA's Energy Star Program.

The New England Power Pool is offering an incentive to large customers who can reduce load on command. Although MIT can and will respond, the Institute believes it is better to pursue behavior changes that will save energy all summer long, even if the call to reduce never comes. It can centrally control building temperatures, but the most effective load reduction is done by individual researchers, staff and students, who are in the best position to conserve without disrupting their work.

Significant energy is required to provide cooling to spaces and equipment. Shutting off electrical devices saves electricity and also minimizes the cost of removing the heat generated from the building. For every dollar saved in electricity by a computer being turned off, another 50 cents in chilled water savings is achieved due to the reduced heat load.

The New England Power Pool recently stated that power shortages in the 2,000-megawatt (MW) range could occur during hot weather. These shortages would arise from the shutdown of four nuclear power plants, the 800-MW Maine Yankee Plant and the three Millstone units in Connecticut, totaling 2,630 MW. Also, the healthy economy is expected to increase electric use so that an all-time record peak power demand of 21,400 MW is projected for the New England region this summer.

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