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Utilities Dept : LSC : Prospectus

Lake Source Cooling : An Idea Whose Time Has Come

A History of Lake Source Cooling At Cornell...

Cornell's central campus cooling system dates back to 1963. It was serviced by three central cooling plants with eight electric chillers, six of which use chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs). Six of these chillers are old (three of them nearly thirty-five years old) and cannot be converted economically to non-CFC refrigerants. To meet the campus cooling demand, all six of these will need to be replaced within the next ten years. Chiller 7 is of more recent vintage, and was converted to use a non-CFC refrigerant in 1997. The eighth and most-recently installed chiller uses a non-CFC refrigerant.

Significant replacement and expansion was required. Existing facilities cooled 3.5 million square feet of air-conditioned space in seventy buildings on the Ithaca campus. As facilities have been expanded and updated, demand for cooling has grown and will continue to grow. The international agreement that went into effect in 1996 to eliminate manufacture of ozone-depleting CFCs lends more urgency to the need for a workable solution to the problem.

In 1994, Cornell's Department of Utilities began to explore options. Two possible paths emerged:

A detailed series of studies tested the feasibility of the two options from fiscal, engineering, and scientific/ecological perspectives. The results favored the lake-source technology.

From its earliest serious consideration, every effort has been made to engage and inform both the public and involved regulatory agencies about the impact of LSC. Of particular concern was its possible effect on the lake's ecology and the disruption its construction might cause along the pipeline route and at the lake shore. Advantages were also analyzed and reported, including provision of long-term, low-cost cooling to Ithaca High School; an opportunity for the City of Ithaca to replace some of its most outdated utility lines at a fraction of the usual cost; improvements to streets and sidewalks; and a large infusion of cash into the area's economy during construction.

The university engaged well-qualified outside consultants to conduct initial studies of the plan's environmental and economic viability and asked Cornell's world-renowned Center for the Environment to form a committee of scientists to independently evaluate the findings. All reports remained highly favorable; and in 1996, Cornell submitted a formal proposal for further evaluation under the State Environmental Quality Review Act.

The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) was declared lead agency in the environmental review process. Following a voluntary public hearing into the scope of the review, the university and its consultants prepared a draft Environmental Impact Statement that was submitted to the DEC and eleven other agencies in the spring of 1997. After the agencies approved the statement for its completeness, there was a sixty-day public review period, followed by a final environmental impact statement that confirmed LSC's status as the best available technology for cooling Cornell in the next century. Construction took place from the Spring of 1999 until the summer of 2000 when the new LSC system was commissioned and put in service to cool the campus.

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