Cornell’s Combined Heat and Power Plant is a 2011 ENERGY STAR Combined Heat and Power Award winner, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Feb. 2.
The plant became operational in December 2009 as a major part of Cornell’s Climate Action Plan, which aims to reduce the University’s greenhouse gas emissions to zero by 2050, according to Bert Bland, the senior director of the Energy and Sustainability Department at Cornell.
A combined heat and power plant recovers heat that is otherwise wasted to produce steam for heating, according to a press release from the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future.
Cornell’s plant burns natural gas and oil, instead of coal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by more than 25 percent, or 89,000 tons.
This year was the first time Cornell applied for the award because it was the first year the University’s power plant met the criteria.
Applying for the award requires submitting at least one year’s actual operational data, which is reviewed intensively by EPA consulting staff, metered and validated, according to Energy Plant Manager Tim Peer.
The award recognizes Cornell’s plant as a high performer for system efficiency. The University will also be allowed to use the Energy Star logo on its letterhead, although there is no monetary reward, Peer said.
The award requires meeting a minimum energy efficiency requirement, which is determined based on the ratio of heat to power produced, Peer said. Cornell’s plant exceeded the 68 percent minimum by about 10 percent, operating at 78 percent efficiency.
The award was granted by the EPA’s Combined Heat and Power partnership, a Department of Energy program to support and expand combined heat and power nationally, Peer said.
Peer submitted the application for the award and will attend the District Energy Association Conference in Miami to formally accept the award.
Two or three institutions annually are recognized for meeting the criteria.
In 2007, President David Skorton signed the President’s Climate Commitment after receiving a petition signed by more than 4,000 students encouraging him to do so, Bland said.
At the time, Cornell’s carbon footprint was about 319,000 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions per year.
According to Bland, the University has invested a total of $46 million in energy conservation. Bland calls the amount spent on energy conservation a “good investment.”
Although the award-winning plant cost between $8 million and $10 million to build, Bland said the University will save money in cost efficiency.
“[The plant] will reduce greenhouse gas emissions, save fuel and save money,” Bland said.
The University is currently updating the Climate Action Plan, which will be two years old in September.
“There are some things we have done according to plan and some we have not,” Bland said. “We are considering new actions that we did not consider two years ago. It is always a work in progress.”