Ithaca College a Renewable Energy Transition Leader

By Gregory Pings, September 29, 2020
Ithaca College ranked No. 8 for renewable electricity usage.

Ithaca College is ideally positioned to lead the transition to renewable energy, as are colleges and universities around the world. The reason is intuitive: The typical college campus uses a lot of energy to power, heat and cool its buildings, according to a report from the Environment America Research & Policy Center.

The Center, which ranked Ithaca No. 8 on its America’s Top Colleges for Renewable Energy 2020 report, cited Ithaca College for obtaining 109% of its electricity from renewable sources.

“Our pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is ahead of schedule. Moreover, we continue to pursue additional renewable energy opportunities that could allow us to achieve our target even sooner.”

Ithaca College president Shirley M. Collado

“Our pledge to achieve carbon neutrality by 2050 is ahead of schedule,” said Ithaca College president Shirley M. Collado. “Moreover, we continue to pursue additional renewable energy opportunities that could allow us to achieve our target even sooner.”

Why ‘More Than 100%’ Makes Sense

“When combined, we purchase and produce more electricity from renewable sources than we actually use,” explained Greg Lischke, IC’s director of Energy Management and Sustainability. “Our electricity supply contract fully offsets our Scope 2 emissions, while our two-megawatt solar farm in Geneva (New York) helps offset some of our Scope 3 emissions.”

Scope 3 is the second-largest source of IC’s carbon footprint. These emissions are from activities the college does not directly control, such as commuting and business travel.

Scope 2 describes the indirect emissions from the electricity that IC purchases. “Our electricity supply contracts allow us to secure Green-e® certified renewable energy certificates from national wind suppliers,” Lischke pointed out. “The result is zero Scope 2 emissions for IC.”

Solar and Geothermal Move IC Toward Net Zero Emissions

“The solar farm, and our purchases of the Green-e certified National Wind, are the reasons why IC ranks so high on the renewable energy report,” Lischke said. “They have accelerated our path to carbon neutrality, though we still have to solve our Scope 1 emissions.”

Scope 1 emissions come from stationary sources that IC controls, including natural gas boilers, refrigerant for cooling systems, and diesel fuel. These systems account for the largest share of the college’s emissions in this category.

Natural gas is used predominantly to heat the buildings and produce domestic hot water at Ithaca College. The good news: Renewable energy for heating and cooling is readily available and practical. The Peggy Ryan Williams Center was built with its own geothermal heating and cooling system.

“It has never produced any significant carbon emissions, which is good news for other geothermal projects currently under consideration,” Lischke pointed out.

“Scope 1 emissions from the natural gas boilers in most of our buildings is clearly our biggest challenge,” he added. “A number of our boilers will reach the end of their useful life during the next several years. Geothermal, electric, and heat pump solutions are viable options to help us fully transition away from natural gas.”

Carbon Neutrality Beyond Ithaca College

Lischke is a steering committee member for the New York Higher Education Large Scale Renewable Energy Consortium, a group that is working to increase renewable energy in the state while also providing tangible research, academic, and engagement opportunities. The college also continues to explore other on-campus and community solar opportunities to expand renewable energy solutions.

Success on college campuses is transferable to the private sector. The information is readily available, Lischke explains, because colleges are open about sharing their experiences on upfront costs, return on investment, and other financial incentives.

These facts help companies and non-profits develop reliable plans to transition to renewable energy, and move the rest of the world toward carbon neutrality.