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A photo featuring MSU's South Campus Anaerobic Digester in the background and cows in the foreground.
Photo courtesy of Communications and Brand Strategy

Anaerobic Digester

Michigan State University’s anaerobic digester is a system that not only reduces waste but also creates energy for some campus buildings. An anaerobic digester is a sealed tank, deprived of oxygen, in which organic waste is broken down at an elevated temperature. This allows the waste material to decompose quickly and produce methane that can be captured and used as fuel. The South Campus Anaerobic Digester mixes organic waste from MSU’s farms and dining halls into methane gas which is used to produce electricity for some of the buildings on MSU’s south campus. Solid materials that are left over after digestion are used in compost mixtures.

For more information, watch an animated video explaining the process of an anaerobic digester.

A close-up photo of coal mixed with torrefied wood pellets.


Biofuels are produced from the burning of biomass, or various organic waste products. In 2007, the T.B. Simon Power Plant began experimenting with biofuel products in the boiler systems. The power plant has cooperated with academic and research units on campus to determine which biofuels could be sustainable options for the future.

MSU recently demonstrated that torrefied wood is one possible fuel option through on-site tests. This particular biofuel is condensed wood with an increased energy density that handles similarly to coal.

An image of the SPARTA (Students Planning Advanced Retrofit Technology Applications) logo.


SPARTA (Students Planning Advanced Retrofit Technology Applications) was developed for the purpose of involving MSU students in a solutions-based approach to help solve the university’s energy paradigm by using the tools of experiential learning, analytical planning and campus-wide cooperation. SPARTA’s mission is to determine cost-effective retrofit technology applications for targeted buildings around MSU’s campus by utilizing the research and consultation of professors, staff, administration and creative undergraduate and graduate students.

Information about the SPARTA group and the many projects it oversees can be found on the SPARTA website.