STARKVILLE — The College View mixed-use development on the northwest edge of the Mississippi State University campus includes an innovative energy-saving power grid that is the first of its kind at an apartment complex in Mississippi.
MSU partnered with Greystar and Blue Sky Power on a combined cooling, heating and power (CCHP) project to provide hot water, natural gas and electricity to College View in one microgrid. Atmos Energy supplied the natural gas.
The project reduces MSU’s carbon emissions by 750 metric tons per year and saves $116,000 per year that the university would have paid to Starkville Utilities otherwise, said Les Potts, fiscal operations analyst for MSU’s Division of Finance. Over 25 years, the estimated life of the project, the university will save $2.9 million and 18,750 metric tons of carbon emissions.
MSU is not the only entity saving money thanks to the CCHP project, Greystar’s Vice President of University Partnerships Mark Grambergs said.
“The idea was to reduce the utility cost for students, which means a lower rental rate for them,” he said.
Blue Sky Power was the first to assess the feasibility of the project before presenting it to Greystar, which proposed it to MSU, Blue Sky Power CEO Benjamin Parvey said. The combination of student housing, retail space, restaurants, classrooms, an amphitheater venue and a clubhouse made College View the right place for a centralized microgrid, he said.
“When we looked at the electrical and thermal loads, it was the ideal opportunity,” Parvey said.
College View is a $67 million development on roughly 34 acres, and phase one of construction started in March and finished this fall. The complete development will include 656 beds for upperclassmen, 46,000 square feet of retail and commercial space, recreational amenities, an outdoor entertainment zone, a 7,000 square-foot day care center and parking.
According to a Blue Sky Power press release, the grid includes a 285,000-watt reciprocating natural gas engine, an absorption chiller and a central boiler and chiller plant. The grid allows College View “to operate in island mode, independent of the grid in the event of a power outage,” the press release states.
The CCHP project is the first on a Mississippi college campus and the first for Greystar, though other campuses in other states have installed projects of a similar capacity, Grambergs said.
“We’ve seen the need for it grow and grow, and we plan on doing this again with other campuses,” he said.
Every campus has different needs and requests, but this system circulates water throughout the College View development to provide heating and cooling to the different buildings as needed, Grambergs said.
“We adapt for each and every project depending on what the university’s goals are,” he said. “It’s a tailor-made program.”
Potts said MSU’s energy efficiency efforts go back several years. MSU reduced its total campus energy intensity per square foot by 41 percent between 2006 and 2018, saving roughly $55 million, and an ongoing LED lighting retrofit saves about $1 million per year so far, Potts said. Solar power in some new construction brings the total reduction of greenhouse gas emissions per student up to 53 percent since 2007, he said.
“This to me was a natural progression (because) it’s sort of in line with our ongoing sustainability efforts,” Potts said.