University of Minnesota Southeast Steam Plant

From Global Energy Monitor

The Southeast Steam Plant, also known as the Twin City Rapid Transit Company Steam Power Plant, is a combined heat and power plant on the Mississippi River in the city of Minneapolis, Minnesota, owned by the University of Minnesota. Five boilers are operational. A new fluidized bed boiler (CFB) is six stories high and capable of burning coal, wood, oat hulls, or natural gas. There are two natural gas boilers, one pulverized coal boiler that can also fire fuel oil, and a spreader stoker coal boiler, also capable of burning fuel oil and possibly oat hulls, although right now that can only be done in conjunction with coal use.[1][2]

In 2008 the school reported that it burned more than 37,000 tons of coal.[3]

The University of Minnesota is a member of the Chicago Climate Exchange and the American College and University Presidents Climate Commitment, and also home to an Office of Sustainability. Its stated sustainability goals include becoming carbon neutral and meeting the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard of 25% renewable energy by 2025. The Sierra Club said the school must stop burning coal if it is to meet these goals.[3]


The plant was constructed in 1903 to provide electricity for the Twin City Rapid Transit street railway system. After Minneapolis converted to buses in the early 1950s, Northern States Power Company (now Xcel Energy) acquired the building.[4] The University of Minnesota purchased the plant in 1976 for $1.[5]


The facility heats 94 buildings — nearly all of the university's Minneapolis campus, cools 19 of those buildings, and provides steam to the University of Minnesota Medical Center, Minnesota State Board of Health, and Cedar Riverside People's Center. Captured as the steam leaves the plant, pressure powers the plant and provides 20% of the university's electricity. The plant's steam is transported through an 18 mile (29 km) network of tunnels to the campus buildings and would be enough to heat 55,000 homes.[6][5]



  1. Richard J. Sandberg,"Technical Support Document, Permit Action Number: 05301050-001", Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, May 31, 2006.
  2. Deane Morrison,"Oat hulls approved for University steam plant" University of Minnesota, February 24, 2006
  3. 3.0 3.1 "Breaking Coal's Grip on Our Future: Moving Campuses Beyond Coal" Sierra Club Report, 2009
  4. Antoinette J. Lee,"Historians Then, Historians Now" (PDF), Cultural Resource Management 19(6)
  5. 5.0 5.1 Emily Kaiser,"Under Heat", The Minnesota Daily, October 18, 2005.
  6. Carl Franzén,"Custodians of the Planet" Kiosk, March 27, 2002

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