Isn't Lake Source Cooling Good For The Global Environment?

Isn't it supposed to allow Cornell to get rid of its ozone-layer-unfriendly CFC chillers?

No. It would actually leave Cornell's CFC chillers in place.

One of Cornell's reasons for promoting LSC is that it would "expedite CFC phase-out". This would be good because CFC's are destroying the ozone layer.

In theory, that is possible; LSC would provide sufficient cooling capacity, at first, to allow Cornell to retire six CFC-refrigerant chillers. However, the fine print of the Environmental Impact Statement reveals that Cornell actually has no plans to remove those chillers. As proposed, the LSC construction project would leave Cornell's ozone-destroying CFC chillers in place.

That raises the question of whether Cornell truly intends to remove those chillers.

Consider that Cornell anticipates growth of chilled water demand, due to continuing campus growth. Now consider that LSC could not meet that increased cooling load without a costly upgrade.

Might Cornell decide to simply turn those ozone-destroying CFC chillers back on, rather than spend even more money on LSC? We don't know. Cornell isn't saying.

What about its fantastic "80% energy savings"? Wouldn't that help global warming?

Not in comparison to conventional alternatives, which could save substantially more energy without damaging Cayuga Lake.

It's important to realize that Cornell eventually has to get rid of its CFC chillers because CFC refrigerants have been banned, and the supply is dwindling. Since those chillers are old and inefficient, anything they do to replace them will save substantial energy. That means that the impressive "80% energy savings" that Cornell claims for LSC (and which has not been independently verified) is an irrelevant number because it is in relation to Cornell's present, inefficient system - it is in not in comparison to alternatives to LSC, as Cornell has implied.

So, the multi-million dollar question is: how well does LSC stack up against conventional alternatives?

The answer is, poorly. Several offer comparable energy savings at far less cost than LSC. And synergistic combinations of conventional technologies could provide even more energy savings at less cost than LSC (Cogeneration Cooling in combination with Ground-Source Cooling, for example).

Thus we see that Cornell's "concern" for the global environment is a shallow, public relations ploy. If Cornell truly cared, they would abandon LSC in favor of a strategy that would:

  1. actually accomplish retirement of their ozone-destroying CFC chillers,
  2. achieve the most energy savings possible, and
  3. not harm Cayuga Lake.

Prepared by the Cayuga Lake Defense Fund (CLDF)
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