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NYSERDA grants $1.65M to Cornell for carbon footprint, energy reductions

The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) will give Cornell $1.65 million in incentives for energy studies and project work to develop a smaller carbon footprint, accelerating the university toward its goal of net-zero carbon for the Ithaca campus by 2035.

Cornell will earn a $1.2 million project incentive award from NYSERDA’s Commercial and Industrial Carbon Challenge, provided by the agency’s Clean Energy Fund, to unlock cost-effective carbon reduction opportunities for large institutions.

“As New York transitions to a clean-energy future, a key component is minimizing the energy consumption of existing buildings,” said Mark Howe, director of Utilities Distribution and Energy Management. “Energy conservation for existing buildings provides immediate direct energy savings. Energy conservation helps to avoid the need to build additional generation facilities, enabling a faster track to a clean-energy future.”

Over the next 3 ½ years, the Facilities and Campus Services Division will install heat recovery systems at Duffield Hall, the Biotechnology Building and S.T. Olin Hall (adjacent to Baker Lab) in order to reclaim warm air that is normally exhausted outdoors, Howe said.

Additional projects will upgrade mechanical systems and controls in 25 buildings that manage heating, cooling, water and air conditioning throughout each building.

“We are partnering with NYSERDA to support Cornell efforts to reduce building energy consumption and reduce campus carbon emissions,” Howe said. These projects have an annual carbon reduction goal of nearly 4,000 metric tons, equivalent to the current emissions from all Cornell-owned vehicles This amounts to nearly 59,000 metric tons over the expected 15‐year life span of the projects.

Cornell has experience with upgrading building controls. From 2011-16, the university spent approximately $33 million on energy-conservation initiatives. The result was a 15% reduction in campus metered building energy use, saving the university $6.4 million annually, with a five-year return on investment. The upgrades continue to save money.

Additionally, NYSERDA will provide Cornell with a $450,000 Flexible Technical Assistance (FlexTech) Program grant, to evaluate 20 campus buildings to determine the scope, cost and scheduling for converting steam heating systems to a lower-temperature hot water distribution system. Converting the steam heating system to hot water is a critical step to transition the campus to a renewable heat supply.

The FlexTech program shares the cost between NYSERDA and Cornell to produce an objective study on how best to implement clean energy and energy efficient technologies.

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Abby Butler