MIT Energy Tour

We had a very eventful and exciting day. As part of the “Alternative Energy” studio, we visited a few of MIT energy-related programs. We started by visiting the CO-GENENERATION plant, then we talked with Nick Gayeski, a PhD in Building Technology about his research. we capped the day by visiting the Fusion Center.

The COGEN plant at MIT is responsible for producing 75% of MIT total electricity. It was installed in 1995 and consists mainly of a combustion turbine (very big one!) which produces 20.4 megawatt. 2/3 of campus steam is provided by the COGEN HRSG and 80% of chilled water is produced by steam turnbine driven chillers.

With Peter L. Cooper, Manager of Sustainable Engineering & Utility Planning at MIT

The combustion turbine

Very complicated inside!

The control room

We spent the next hour at Nick’s lab talking about his dissertation research on low-lift cooling technologies. His research is done in collaboration with MASDAR, a new city in Abu Dhabi that will rely entirely on solar energy and other renewable energy sources, with a sustainable, zero-carbon, zero-waste ecology. Nick’s research focuses on the consumption side. Since the climate in Abu Dhabi is very hot, most of the energy goes into cooling the buildings. As his research indicates, the potential of low-lift cooling savings is as much as 75% of cooling energy. To achieve this, Nick is using multiple technologies, such as variable speed chiller, radiant cooling, monitoring with system identification, and optimal predictive control.

For the afternoon session, we visited the Fusion Center. Ted, a PhD student at the lab, gave us a fantastic tour of the Alcator C-Mod fusion reactor. We really could not believe that something like this exists at MIT!

Fusion, the reaction that produces the sun’s energy, is thought to have enormous potential for future power generation because fusion plant operation produces no emissions, fuel sources are potentially abundant, and it produces relatively little (and short-lived) radioactive waste. But it still faces great hurdles. The Alcator C-Mod reactor, in operation since 1993, has the highest magnetic field and the highest plasma pressure of any fusion reactor in the world, and is the largest fusion reactor operated by any university.

With Ted and the fusion reactor in the back

The crane that is used to take apart the reactor before every experiment

The heavy door that separates the reactor from the rest of the building

The monitor room

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