Wind to Power One-Fifth of Cornell’s Energy

A wind farm may soon supply about 20 percent of Cornell’s electricity usage...

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The proposed view in Enfiled of Black Oak Wind Farm
The proposed view in Enfield of Black Oak Wind Farm

By Olivia Lutwak via the Cornell Daily Sun, 1/21/15

A wind farm may soon supply about 20 percent of Cornell’s electricity usage, pending municipal approval. The University announced its decision on Dec. 8 to purchase all 11.9 megawatts of renewable energy the Black Oak Wind Farm — located in Enfield — will produce after its construction. The energy would be enough to power 5,000 households, according to the University.

Cornell’s energy purchase commitment is “critical” in helping the independent Black Oak board secure private funds for the wind farm’s construction pending final municipal approvals, according to Sarah Zemanick, director of campus sustainability.

“Cornell is committed to exploring renewable energy sources — especially those that, like us, have deep roots in this community,” she said. “The estimated annual electricity that Black Oak will produce will supply about 20 percent of Cornell’s electricity needs and help reduce greenhouse gas emissions by more than 5 percent.”

The University has been working with groups of investors — many of whom are members of the community engaged in sustainability — for “several years,” according to KyuJung Whang, vice president for Facilities Services.

“Although we have made very good progress towards achieving carbon neutrality, we still have much work to do and not rest on our laurels.” -KyuJung Whang

“This is a complex deal that has to work financially for both parties or this project wouldn’t have gotten off the ground,” Whang said. “Cornell needed to do our due diligence to ensure the financial viability and risk associated with the purchase agreement were both manageable.”

The purchase represents one of many steps taken by the University in recent years to achieve carbon neutrality. Cornell faculty, students and staff developed the Climate Action Plan in 2009, which originally sought to cut carbon emissions to net zero by 2050. However, the pace of the recent initiatives have accelerated the timeline to 2035, Whang said.

The University launched a number of other sustainability initiatives in the fall. The Snyder Road Solar Farm, located near the Ithaca Tompkins Regional Airport, went live last September, and the University also announced a proposal to build a 10-acre solar farm in Seneca, New York, in November.

Whang said that with all the recent initiatives, it is especially “critical to engage everyone in the Cornell community” in the efforts toward a sustainable future.

“Although we have made very good progress towards achieving carbon neutrality, we still have much work to do and must not rest on our laurels,” Whang said. “We must continue to look for ways to acquire electricity generated by non-fossil fuels.”

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