November 4, 2013

Promoting Sustainability, Energy Corps Saves Cornell $35,000

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Although it is only about a year old, Energy Corps, a student organization, has already saved the University tens of thousands of dollars in energy costs while advocating sustainability on campus.

This year, Energy Corps has saved the University $35,077.09 through cutting energy consumption. Over seven years, it projects it will help the University save $245,539.63 — and ultimately, it hopes to bump up its seven-year savings projection to $1 million, according to Patrick Roeschel ’16, co-president of Energy Corps.

The organization says that, to reach its goal, it will have to make both big and small changes around campus to promote sustainability.

One change the organization has already begun making around campus is replacing fluorescent bulbs with LED bulbs, according to Kira Gidron ’14, co-president of Energy Corps. In Fall 2012, the organization replaced the lightbulbs in all of Mann Library’s desk lamps with more energy-efficient bulbs to help save energy.

“We have focused primarily on LED — light emitting diode — and CFL lighting upgrades because they are technically simple and have a large return on investment,” Roeschel said in an email. LED lightbulbs consume less power and last longer than fluorescent bulbs.

According to Roeschel, the group is also currently researching the feasibility of installing motion sensors, floor heaters and smart plugs across campus.

“The options for future technologies and future cost savings are essentially unlimited,” Roeschel said.

Michael Blonsky ’14, Energy Corps’ project management supervisor, said Energy Corps differs from the many other environmental groups on campus because it focuses on sustainability efforts on Cornell’s Ithaca campus. Unlike other groups, Energy Corps also has separate finance and research teams to promote sustainability and reduce costs, Blonsky said.

Since then, Energy Corps has grown to include 35 students and worked closely with Cornell’s Energy and Sustainability Office to fund various projects. According to Roeschel, the club has also worked with Facilities Managers in the buildings where its projects are located.

“We are always looking for more ways to collaborate with the administration and student groups on campus,” Roeschel said.

Gidron echoed Roeschel’s sentiments, adding that Energy Corps’ projects give students valuable experiences.

“Through our projects, we’re giving students the project experience, project management experience dealing with different stakeholders who are not necessarily initially open to changing the status quo,” Gidron said.

According to Blonsky, Energy Corps is also trying to make it easier for less-involved students to make a difference by launching a separate Green Berets program, which will make it easier for students to suggest sustainability projects.

“Members join Energy Corps through a selective process, but we want to reach out and get everyone’s ideas on campus,” Blonsky said. “That’s what the Green Berets is about. Anyone can come to meetings and submit ideas. It’s hard for someone who doesn’t know anything about energy to start a project because that requires a formal submission process.”

This semester, Energy Corps is working on projects in Sage Hall and Willard Straight Hall. It has previously worked on projects in Ives Hall and Mann Library.