$3 Million Clean Energy Competition for Colleges and Universities in New York State

Three $1 million dollar awards for the best innovative NYS campus clean energy projects...

Students enthusiastically supporting Innovation as a part of Climate Neutrality at a Cornell Basketball Game
Students enthusiastically supporting Innovation as a key to achieving climate neutrality during a Cornell zero-waste basketball game.

The Energy to Lead Competition is a contest administered by the NYSERDA REV Campus Challenge for three $1 million dollar awards to challenge institutions and student-led coalitions across New York State to develop and implement plans that advance clean energy on their campuses and local communities in new ways. They're looking for innovative clean energy projects that reduce greenhouse gas emissions while increasing student involvement and community engagement.

Complete this Google Form to help us gauge the number and type of proposals being submitted.

The Campus Sustainability Office (CSO) is coordinating any efforts from Cornell to enter this competition in partnership with the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future (ACSF) and Engaged Cornell. We can help you find and connect with staff, faculty and student collaborators across campus, develop the student learning aspect of your proposals, and provide any updates from NYSERDA. We will help identify and align related proposals, and consolidate projects with budgets less than $1M into one proposal - NYSERDA will not consider proposals for less than $1M. (Please note that we are not equipped to provide administrative/grantsmanship support.) All proposals will have to go through the Office of Sponsored Programs (OSP). The contact person for this grant opportunity at the OSP is Jeff Corbin (jdc37).

General Requirements
The full RFP can be accessed here: RFP 3214 REV Campus Challenge - Energy to Lead Competition. (Make sure to read the RFP very carefully--missing pieces could mean lost points or ineligibility in the competition!)

  • Clean energy investment on NYS campus (not limited to campus, but must have some aspect on campus)
  • Commercially viable technologies (no R&D or unproven technologies)
  • Can include one targeted project or multiple projects/initiatives on the same proposal
  • Proposal length should be no more than about 15 pages. The proposal should be as clear and concise as possible and can include spreadsheets/additional addenda.
  • Only awards of $1 million will be granted. If your project will cost less than this please indicate this on the Google Form so the CSO can assist in bundling projects for the purpose of the proposal.

The proposal will consist of five main sections as outlined in Section III (Proposal Requirements) of the RFP:

  • Synopsis
  • Innovation of project
  • Project team
  • Project impact
  • Project viability

The Project Innovation section should focus on four key areas:

  • Project Design: Use existing technologies (no R&D or unproven technologies), but layered or used in a new way
  • Business Model: New way of paying for project—lowering costs/creating new revenue streams
  • Innovative Partnership: Work with local communities and businesses in a new way
  • Curriculum Integration: Engage students in implementation of project—Integrate project construction/implementation/operations in student coursework and/or workforce training and/or internships

Project Team

  • Must include at least one student (undergrad or grad) who will be enrolled as of April 22, 2016
  • Student must be involved in proposal and implementation process
  • More than one student is allowed and even encouraged
  • Can also include third-party developers, local community organizations, etc.
  • Responsibilities and roles need to be clearly identified for each member of the team for both development and implementation

Project Impact

  • This section accounts for a large portion of the objectives for the competition
  • GHG reduction/mitigation--how will the project reduce GHG emissions?
  • Replicability--how could the project be applied to a different portion of Cornell's campus or another campus entirely?
  • Success--how will success be measured/defined for the project (energy savings, student/community engagement, etc.)?
  • Resiliency/Economic Development--optional, respond as applicable

GHG Calculations
NYSERDA does not have any specific processes or set of criteria for calculating emissions. You should just be sure that any assumptions, conversion factors, etc. are clearly identified. Any spreadsheets that are included with the proposal should be accompanied by a narrative that will walk the evaluators through how you got to your final estimate.

Project Viability

  • Show that project will move forward if award is granted
  • Should have a solid project team set up and ready to go
  • To what extent will the $1 million help move the project forward?
  • What are potential challenges/barriers and how could you overcome them?
  • Letters of support from campus/community/other stakeholders
  • Implementation plan--Budget and Project Timeline

Project Timeline
Must be started within a year of award and show consistent progress throughout proposed timeline (can span multiple years)

Areas of Evaluation
Proposals will be evaluated by a Technical Evaluation Panel based on the terms outlined in Section III of the RFP, Proposal Requirements. Be sure to consider the overall objective of the competition--providing an innovative, clean energy project that engages students--when writing the proposal.

Important Dates:

  • Informational webinars: February 10th and March 1st
  • Proposals due 5 PM on Monday April 4th
  • Winners will be announced during Earth Week (week of April 20th)

Complete this Google Form to register your proposal!

Views expressed in News posts may not be those of Cornell University. No endorsement is implied.