October 8, 2002

C.U. Moves to Reduce Energy Usage

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Because of the massive energy bill Cornell receives for electricity use for its 740-acre campus, Campus Life is taking conservation measures to alleviate this expenditure and reduce energy consumption.


“We are very committed to being good stewards of the University resources and to doing the right thing,” stated Dale Walter, general manager for facilities operations. “If we can control the energy cost, we can convert those dollars into enhancing and maintaining the residential living areas.” According to Peter Eliason, director of facilities for Campus Life, Campus Life has a utility budget of almost $15 million per year. To save costs, Campus Life initiatives include installing water-saving shower heads in dormitories and converting many incandescent bulbs to energy-saving fluorescents.

Earlier this year, heeding the requests of Kyoto NOW!, Campus Life helped to reduce the cost of each florescent Energy Star Torchiere lamp by $5 in The Cornell Store and in the Appel Commons in order to promote the use of florescent lamps to students.

Kyoto NOW! member Moss Templeton ’03 said that the conservation movement will be more successful if visibility is increased.

“You can only accomplish so much with physical technology,” Templeton said, adding that encouraging students to conserve energy, “is really one of the last frontiers that Cornell hasn’t got into and it’s the one that they should get into.”

Student Involvement

This second-year initiative, organized by Campus Life and the Residence Hall Association (RHA), involves students with energy conservation. At the beginning of the year, Campus Life set a water and electricity usage base line. If the student utility bill is less than base line, Campus Life and the RHA will split the savings in half.

Low Rise Dorms 6 and 7 raised $3,000 from this initiative last year.

“Besides the fact that we’re saving energy, it’s a great way to put students together as a community to do this,” said Jonathan Chin ’05, RHA programming and fundraising commissioner.

Campus Life is also considering future projects to conserve energy.

Mike Mott of the Campus Life Facilities Contracted Services said that they are looking into efficient motors for heating and ventilation systems and new windows in dorm rooms to prevent hot and cool air from escaping.

A substantial portion of the University’s energy comes from environmentally friendly sources, according to Lanny Joyce ’81, manager of engineering, planning and energy management in the department of utilities and energy management.

10 percent of Cornell’s electricity comes from lake source cooling (LSC) and another two percent comes from the hydroelectric center in Fall Creek. The rest of the energy is purchased from New York State Electric and Gas, which is a combination of hydroelectric, nuclear, coal and natural gas energy. Joyce said that alternative energy sources such as wind would, “cost a lot more than any electric source.”

“In the world of limited resources, we pursue the goal of an energy conserving campus first,” Joyce said. “We work hard on reducing energy use instead of buying renewable energy.”

Eliason said that Campus Life considers projects, “with the quickest paybacks first.”

Templeton disagreed with this policy. He said the University should, “look at things with a long payback,” Kyoto NOW! treasurer Noah Pollock ’03 said. Pollock said that because the University is, “short-staffed,” they, “have many projects they can do but they can only do it one at a time.”

According to Walter, Campus Life is at a, “higher level of commitment and implementation of energy saving” in comparison to other schools.

He also acknowledged that more could be done.

“Cornell has left the harder part, which is changing people’s actions, untouched,” Templeton said.

On the other hand, according to Mott, community support is, “definitely moving in the right direction.” Eliason plans to continue working the RHA in promoting energy conservation.

“It takes everyone’s help to conserve energy, to turn off the water after its use, to turn off their electric equipment when not needed … all those little things will amount to a large reduction in energy consumption,” Walter said.

Archived article by Brian Tsao