Cornell Campus Energy Update

The Cornell campus is pushing 15 million ft2 in upstate New York. The power plant supplies steam for heat, plus electric power and water services. Peak load is 35 Mw. Energy conservation activities improved overall efficiency which reduced carbon emissions. Two gas turbines with HRSGs provide cogeneration and allowed for the shutdown of the two coal boilers. Pressure from the student community, the state, the faculty, and eNGOs drove the elimination of the coal units.

The university adopted the Paris Accords. There are state regulations that will impact the university. Building codes may require renewable energy credits. The state is pushing for all buildings to be electric. The university has a Climate Action Plan which calls for carbon neutrality by 2035. Renewable energy use is only a part of the plan. One approach is earth source heat (like geothermal). The alternative is ground-sourced heat pumps. Nuclear power is another option. The last alternative is carbon credits. Solar PV and wind power can be deployed for electricity supply. Earth source heating involves drilling down about 10,000 ft to where the temperature can support heating water to 190 F. That hot water is brought to the surface for use as building heat. A test well has been drilled. Hot water has been verified. There were no seismic or fracture issues. The university promotes community involvement. Of course, this approach requires a shift from steam distribution to hot water distribution. Backup and emergency power and heat need to be evaluated. Energy conservation programs will continue. The university would like to be able to generate some carbon offsets.

 – Cheryl Ann Brown, Cornell University