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4 New York colleges win $5 million to help combat climate change

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced in June over $5 million in awards to four colleges and universities to help them achieve deep energy savings and combat climate change under the Energy to Lead Competition. The City College of New York Building Performance Lab, New York Medical College, Syracuse University, and Vassar College will receive more than $1 million each to develop comprehensive and cost-effective projects that advance building decarbonization while incorporating student input and community engagement, including two projects that will implement net zero energy performance in retrofit and new construction applications. This announcement supports Gov. Cuomo’s nation-leading climate and clean energy agenda including an 85 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

“Colleges and universities are at the heart of inspiring the next generation of climate leaders to create and implement sustainable clean energy solutions that fight climate change,” Gov. Cuomo said. “The Energy to Lead competition has created an opportunity to empower students, professors and leadership to help New York deliver low-carbon solutions for one of our toughest areas to decarbonize—buildings—while fostering a great sense of campus pride around the ability to create a greener and cleaner future on campuses and in surrounding communities.”

As part of the Energy to Lead competition, these campuses will advance clean energy plans that will be instrumental in achieving New York State’s goals to realize a carbon neutral building stock, inspire the next generation of climate leaders and provide robust opportunities for student engagement. Combined, the projects are expected to save 4,604 metric tons of carbon annually, the equivalent to removing almost 4,000 cars from the road each year. The projects provide educational and professional opportunities to students and local communities. Additionally, the projects will deliver local community benefits by helping reduce emissions in the area. Each awardee will share best practices by providing guidance documents to distribute on campus and at higher education events for replication planning, funding, and implementation. This will help maximize quantifiable energy and greenhouse gas reductions on their own campuses as well as other campuses around the state. 

The City College of New York – Building Performance Lab – $1.4 Million: Will develop a control based, systematic process for facilities staff and building operators to increase their ability to effectively manage and properly commission major energy consuming systems on campus. The project will deploy, test and document a systematic process to engage students and facilities staff in implementing building automation system-based procedures that offer control of electricity use.

New York Medical College – $1.3 Million: Will design and implement a campus-wide, direct digital control building management system that will combine existing systems with new, advanced controls to create a single system for campus HVAC, chiller and boiler pumps, and lighting controls. Training sessions will be held to help facilities staff optimize system performance and a campus climate action plan will be implemented to inventory campus greenhouse gas emissions and energy use.  The campus will conduct outreach and educational activities to inform students and the community of project progress.

Syracuse University – 1.3 Million: Will conduct a retrofit project on an existing 8-unit campus dormitory building, leveraging creative, cost-effective solutions to develop, analyze, and implement net zero energy performance. The project will evaluate the impact of renewable energy sources, high efficiency systems, and occupant-centric smart building controls to increase energy savings. Students will participate in energy modeling, simulation, and evaluation of building performance. The project will also be promoted and shared with the local community through an exhibit at the University’s Museum of Science and Technology.

Vassar College – $1.1 Million: Will construct a new, net zero emission building for the college’s Institute for the Liberal Arts along with a dashboard that reports construction and installation progress. It will feature real-time data monitoring to demonstrate project impacts and outcomes. Vassar students will contribute to the project through research and by analyzing building performance metrics to verify savings achieved through net-zero construction.

The Energy to Lead Competition is administered by the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority and supports colleges and universities that strive to meet their financial, environmental, academic and community goals through clean energy solutions. Over three rounds, the Energy to Lead competition received 82 submissions from 56 private and public colleges and has awarded ten colleges and universities over $11 million since 2016.