Welcome to the September-October 2016 issue of the TCCPI Newsletter, an electronic update from the Tompkins County Climate Protection Initiative (TCCPI).
TCCPI is a multisector collaboration seeking to leverage the climate action commitments made by Cornell University, Ithaca College, Tompkins Cortland Community College, Tompkins County, the City of Ithaca, and the Town of Ithaca to mobilize a countywide energy efficiency effort and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy
. Launched in June 2008 and generously supported by the Park Foundation, TCCPI is a project of the Sustainable Markets Foundation.
We are committed to helping Tompkins County achieve a dynamic economy, healthy environment, and resilient community through a focus on energy efficiency and renewable energy.
A Geothermal System to Heat Cornell Campus?
Cornell could potentially eliminate an estimated 82,000 metric tons of carbon from its annual footprint by establishing one of the country's most advanced geothermal systems to heat the 745-acre Ithaca campus - an effort that could demonstrate a new scalable model for using this sustainable energy source throughout the U.S. and the world.
Cornell is calling the project "Earth Source Heat." This effort to explore the potential of enhanced-geothermal energy will combine Cornell's world-leading energy and sustainability researchers with the living laboratory of Cornell's facilities over the next two decades. Its first step will be a planned small-scale demonstration installation within about five years of a well pair that will reach into the basement rock more than two miles below the surface to tap the Earth's vast heat reservoir. Water will be circulated in a closed loop through the rock and return to the surface to supply heat to the
Should this small-scale demonstration project prove successful, Cornell will consider moving forward with plans to install a full-scale system to heat most buildings on the campus. During extremely cold weather, the system would be supplemented with heat from a biomass gasification facility, providing a second source of clean energy.
This hybrid system would be the first in the U.S. to combine enhanced-geothermal with a district-heating system capable of distributing hot water from a centralized location to multiple buildings.
Geothermal energy could help meet ambitious net carbon emission reduction goals laid out in the university's Climate Action Plan in 2009. Since that time, Cornell has reduced its emissions by more than 30 percent through several initiatives, including the construction of solar farms and the decommissioning of its coal-powered energy plant. Cornell is pursuing the Earth Source Heat project to eliminate up to an additional 38 percent of its emissions.
Cornell's facilities also make it a unique candidate to deploy an enhanced-geothermal system.
"Our university's 'cogeneration' combined heat and power plant currently pipes its excess heat via steam through campus using a district energy system. The system would have to be reconfigured to a hot-water system for enhanced-geothermal use," said KyuJung Whang, vice president for infrastructure, properties and planning, and co-chair of the Senior Leaders Climate Action Group.
As it begins to explore Earth Source Heat, Cornell is engaging with community members and building a consortium of higher education, private business and government partners interested in helping move the project forward. The next steps will be to study, conceptually design, and develop technical and financial metrics for a small-scale demonstration project that would include a pair of wells, heat exchange facilities and interconnection for heating target areas of campus. After a full environmental assessment is completed, Cornell will develop a long-term process of continued community engagement to help determine the feasibility of developing a full-scale geothermal project.
The ultimate goal will be to advance new research and apply the lessons learned during Cornell's Earth Source Heat project to create a new model for enhanced geothermal energy.
According to a 2006 study chaired by Jeff Tester, director of the Energy Institute at Cornell and the Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems in Engineering - and one of the faculty leaders of the Earth Source Heat effort - more than 100 gigawatts of electric capacity could be provided to the U.S. through enhanced-geothermal systems over the next 50 years. That represents 10 percent of the country's overall electric capacity today.
Next TCCPI Meeting:
Friday, October 28, 2016
9 to 11 am
Tompkins County Public Library
Borg Warner Room
101 E. Green St.
Ithaca, NY 14850
||Cornell Digs Deep to Stay Warm, But You Don't Have To
by Karim Beers,
Cornell recently announced plans to explore using the earth's warmth to heat many of the buildings on campus through a large scale geothermal system. The long term project involves drilling more than two miles into the earth so that water can be pumped through a continuous loop between the hot earth and cold campus buildings, possibly reducing the Ithaca campus' heating emissions by an estimated 82,000 metric tons of carbon per year.
While residential geothermal systems are nowhere near the scale of Cornell's project, they also have the potential to give building owners big savings in carbon emissions and heating costs. There is a 30% federal tax credit for geothermal systems that expires in December of this year, making now a great time to explore this renewable heat source. Visit the Get Your Greenback Renewable Heat page here or contact Karim Beers for personalized support.
Heat pumps include air-source and ground-source heat pumps. Like air conditioners or refrigerators, they use electricity to move heat from a cool space to a warm space, making the cool space cooler and the warm space warmer.
can be carbon neutral if
paired with solar panels, or if you purchase green energy through your energy supplier. Read more about heat pumps here.
Whether you decide on air or ground source, make sure you
weatherize your home
before deciding on a new heating system. This will help you reduce your heat load, and help you determine the appropriate equipment to keep your home warm all winter long.
Take a step to save money and energy!
A Glimpse of My Future: Networking in Toronto
The 4th annual 2030 Districts Network Summit was held in Toronto on September 21-22. As a college student, I had no idea what to expect. All I knew was that I would be the youngest one there, and that worried me. Would people take me seriously, an 18-year-old trying to make it in a world with established engineers and policy makers? Luckily they did, making for one of the most educational experiences of my life to date.
Here's a little background on Architecture 2030 itself. It is a nonprofit organization with two major goals for the built environment:
- Reduction in global fossil fuel consumption and GHG emissions
- The development of an adaptive and resilient built environment
And how are these goals achieved? In working with the initiative in Ithaca for 8 months, I thought the most effective way involved the collaboration between the public and private sectors within the city itself. But after attending this conference, I now know that what keeps this project successful is the strong network between participating districts. Having the experience of older districts and the unique outlook of newer districts is what keeps the project moving. These
differing perspectives are brought together annually at the Summit, allowing for exponential innovation in a short period of time.
When the morning of the 21st arrived, I couldn't decide whether I was nervous or excited. With my fellow members of the Ithaca 2030 District, I walked over to the Lodge on Queen, where we would be spending the majority of our time the next few days. We arrived at what appeared to be an old apartment building, and headed inside to see what awaited us. Much to my surprise, we walked into a spacious room with beautifully exposed brick walls and chandeliers. I was very impressed that they managed to keep the old-fashioned feel with the elegant renovation.
We had about a half hour for breakfast and mingling, and then everyone gathered together for a quick welcome from Dave Low, the 2030 Network Liaison. This was followed by the executive directors from each of the 13 existing districts sharing a little bit about what they have been doing to meet the 2030 goals. Then Nils Larsson gave a presentation on the International Initiative for a Sustainable Built Environment (iiSBE), and moving performance analysis from buildings to small urban areas.
After a quick update about the network's new governance, it was time for lunch. This was my first chance to network, and meet people doing so many great things. One person that stuck out to me is Joyce Lee, president of IndigoJLD. She is working with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to develop an ENERGY STAR score for museums, giving museums a chance to assess their performance based on similar buildings nationwide.
After lunch we split for two sessions, one more on the technical side and one more on the marketing/public relations side. I chose to attend the technical sessions, since I have been doing data collection and analysis for Ithaca. Isaac Smith, the Building Performance Analyst from the Pittsburgh 2030 District, presented on how they have gone about measuring transportation and water metrics.
The structure of these presentations was very interesting. Instead of being formatted as a lecture, it was more like a discussion. This allowed us all to be aware of each other's opinions on how to approach things, and to learn from each other. This was especially helpful for me, since Ithaca is just starting out as a district and any advice is helpful.
The final technical session was led by Isabella McKnight, the Program Manager of the Cleveland 2030 District. She shared the reporting system that her district has been using. They customize reports based on property owner's needs; some like to see the impacts of their efficiency projects, and others like to use performance metrics as means of fundraising. The reports she showed were beautifully formatted, and gave me a great basis for how to make my own when the time comes.
The next day had a similar format; we had breakfast, broke up into groups based on what we were interested in, and had discussions. Unfortunately, we had to leave early to beat rush hour traffic, so we missed a couple of the sessions. But we got to experience a very exciting event before we left: Austin, Texas and Portland, Maine being signed on as official districts! This brought the count to 15 districts in North America, seven more than where we were at the beginning of the year.
After reflecting on my experience at the 2030 District Summit, I can honestly say that it was one of the most important events in my life so far. I was surrounded by people that were just as passionate as me. I got to learn about their various perspectives, and about what they believed was the best approach to the 2030 Challenge and for ultimately combating climate change. I was given advice on how to go about looking for jobs, and how to advance my career. And most importantly, I made valuable connections with people that can continually support me and help me accomplish my goals. I'm so thankful that I was given the opportunity, and cannot wait to use what I learned to make the world a better place.
||One Last Thing: Time for Some Good News?
There are plenty of discouraging climate-related developments out there -- Hurricane Matthew, wildfires in the West, the ongoing drought in central New York. You don't even have to look beyond our country's borders to find enough bad news to make you want to pull the covers over your head. And, globally speaking, we're still on track for 2016 to be the warmest year since records began in 1880.
But believe it or not there's actually been quite a bit of good news so far in October. As Vox reported the other day, here's what this month has brought so far:
1) Canada is putting a nationwide carbon tax in place.
On October 4, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his government the
starting in 2018.
2) That same day the Paris climate agreement went into effect. Enough countries ratified the the deal so it's now officially "in force." Governments will have to regularly report and review their progress on emissions to the UN.
4) Finally, on October 15
, 197 countries
agreed to phase out hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs)
, a very potent greenhouse gas used in refrigerators and air conditioners. Vox described this as "probably the most important climate policy taken to date." It's estimated that the HFC treaty alone could prevent between 0.2°C and 0.44°C of warming by the end of the century. When ratified, this agreement will be legally binding and enforceable through trade sanctions.
Closer to home, we've also seen some positive developments recently:
1) Cornell just
an important report outlining its options for meeting its target of
carbon neutrality by 2035
The release of the report by the Senior Leader Climate Action Group, will begin the next phase of campus and community engagement around this very ambitious goal.
2) New York's
2016 Energy Conservation Construction Code went into effect on October 3rd for residential and commercial buildings. The new code calls for improvements in the design and construction of energy-efficient building envelopes and the installation of energy-efficient mechanical, lighting and power systems through requirements emphasizing performance.
3) The Tompkins County Planning Department announced that it has completed the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Inventories. The report shows that the Tompkins County Community reduced its emissions by 21% between 2008 and 2014 and Tompkins County Government reduced its emissions by 53% during this same period. The not-so-good news, however, is that when fugitive methane emissions outside of the County are taken into account total emissions due to expanded natural gas use have probably risen significantly.
4) Last but not least, in August New York established the Clean Energy Standard, a mandate that requires 50 percent of New York's electricity come from renewable sources by 2030. The Clean Energy Standard is critical to reducing the State's greenhouse gas emissions by 80 percent by 2050.
Of course, even when the impact of all these developments is added up, we still don't come close to keeping global warming below 2°C, the generally agreed upon ceiling for preventing runaway climate change. But they demonstrate that collective action is possible and by joining together we can build on these achievements to make further progress. As Bill McKibben points out, ""The most important thing an individual can do is not be an individual...Job one is to organize and jobs two and three."
Be sure to visit the website for TCCPI's latest project, the Ithaca 2030 District, an interdisciplinary public-private collaboration working to create a groundbreaking high-performance building district in Downtown Ithaca.