Wind, Water & Solar Power

Renewable energy procurement includes strategies to integrate more wind, water, and solar power into Cornell’s renewable energy portfolio ...

Wind, Water and Solar Power are Neutrality goals in the Cornell Climate Action Plan(CAP).

Integrate wind, water and solar power, into Cornell’s renewable energy portfolio by building, or procuring energy from wind, hydroelectric and solar photovoltaic energy systems.

Goal: Support the expansion of regional solar, wind, and hydroelectric power generation capacity through procuring energy for university facilities from external projects and through construction of dedicated facilities. This action will increase renewable generation capacity in our region and the overall renewable energy portfolio of New York State, as well as enabling Cornell to expand research and teaching opportunities around renewable energy. Full-scale implementation of this action, including power purchased from external projects and power produced by Cornell facilities, could provide more than 49,000 metric tons (CO2 equivalent) of average annual carbon abatement – or roughly 22% of the current carbon footprint.

Cornell has also made it easier for projects state-wide to be interconnected and credited for their renewable energy generation. In the process of securing approvals to construct its solar projects, Cornell filed petitions with the NYS Public Service Commission (PSC) and worked with Department of Public Service to secure changes that enable many more options for siting renewable projects that are economically feasible.

Wind Power

Wind power is among the most cost effective, large-scale renewable energy sources currently available. Cornell is actively investigating opportunities to harness wind power for education, research, demonstration scale projects, and full-scale utilization to provide power for the university.

Since wind energy generation is variable (produced only when the wind blows), Cornell will implement strategies to reconcile seasonality and variability in wind with campus needs. During the winter months, all of the energy needs of the Ithaca Campus are currently met through on-campus production at the Central Energy Plant. Cornell purchases the majority of its grid power in the summer. Yet adequate storage, transmission, and “back up” electricity is needed to ensure sufficient and reliable electricity is provided for campus at all times. Large scale wind energy will produce more power during the winter months, so some mechanism for balancing Cornell’s energy demands with wind energy production is needed.

Next Steps

  • Complete a market analysis of external renewable projects, including wind, solar, geothermal, and biogas. Based on the results of the market analysis, determine if a demonstration-scale wind project on Hungerford Hill and/or other renewable energy projects should be pursued.


  • A consultant has been retained to assess Cornell’s load profile, develop Cornell-specific decision making criteria, and complete a market analysis.


Cornell will maintain and enhance the existing 1.2 MW on-campus hydroplant and potentially support regional hydroelectric power generation and plant renewal through procuring energy for university facilities from external projects.

Partnering with private developers may provide opportunities for Cornell to procure long-term, cost-effective hydroelectric power – while also helping to conserve and restore historical sites and expand employment, educational, and recreational opportunities in the region.

Students with Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD) have identified three sites along Fall Creek for potential future hydropower generation projects. Each of the three sites could support a different kind of hydroelectric generation system. A conventional turbine-generator system could be implemented at a site in the Forest Home Neighborhood, a hydrokinetic system could be implemented upstream of the Sackett Footbridge, and a capacity extension project could be implemented at the existing Cornell hydro plant. The Cornell Hydro Plant Extension Project is currently the most promising of the three projects. Follow-up investigations are planned to identify systems that could optimize energy generation and cost effectiveness at these sites.

Next Steps

  • Monitor Public Service Commission rulings and the status of regulations for opportunities to pursue external hydroelectric projects with private developers.


  • Support CUSD team follow-up investigations and continue to explore future options.

Solar Power

New York State has identified solar photovoltaic (PV) energy as a critical renewable resource, and Cornell has sought to increase the solar PV electricity supply for campus by taking advantage of state and federal incentive and subsidy programs. Declining state subsidies and the upcoming expiration of federal tax incentives may make it difficult to develop solar projects in the future.

Cornell’s first solar PV project, the Snyder Road Solar Farm, consisting of a 2MW array on eleven acres of Cornell property in the Town of Lansing was commissioned in 2014 and is expected to reduce the university’s GHG emissions by 625 metric tons per year. The panels are installed on a “tilt” racking system which allows for adjustment to facilitate research studies, and they will be available for Cornell sponsored research and teaching projects as well as for collaborative projects with local community K-12 schools, colleges and their students. For information about tours, contact

Solar Panel on top of Day Hall (University Photography)
Snyder Road Solar Farm (Ole Gustafson)

The Snyder Road Solar Farm produces 2.5 million kWh annually – about 1 percent of Cornell’s total electricity use, the equivalent electricity to power about 370 homes for a year. 

Sutton Road Solar Farm, a 2-megawatt energy facility that will offset nearly 40 percent of the annual electricity demand at the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station (NYSAES) in Geneva, New York, became fully operational April 13, 2016.

Klarman Hall has 64 solar photovoltaic panels installed on its rooftop, contributing to its LEED certification and climate action goals. The School of Human Ecology, the first building to be LEED Platinum Certified on campus, also hosts a new rooftop solar system.

Cornell Ledyard Solar Project at the Musgrave Research Farm includes two solar farms: Musgrave East & Musgrave West (Photo/ Kevin Jenkins)
Cornell Ledyard Solar Project at the Musgrave Research Farm includes two solar farms: Musgrave East & Musgrave West (Photo/ Kevin Jenkins)

The Cornell Ledyard Solar Project at the Musgrave Research Farm includes two solar farms: Musgrave East & Musgrave West. They are located Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station (CUAES) Musgrave Research Farm in Ledyard, NY. The farms will produce 3,250,000 kWh each annually and they each will reduce Cornell’s greenhouse gas emissions by 610 MtCO2e annually. Click here for more information about this project.(pdf)

Harford Solar Farm at the Ruminant Center is located in Harford, NY. It has a total of 9333 solar panels and it is estimated that it will produce 3,275,000 kWh annually.

Harford Solar Farm at the Ruminant Center (Photo/Kevin Jenkins)
Harford Solar Farm at the Ruminant Center (Photo/Kevin Jenkins)

Fun fact: a local company is employed to use sheep as an all-natural grass cutting service at some of the solar farms. This service helps reduce maintenance costs and use of fossil fuels for upkeep.

Musgrave and Harford Solar Farms - Drone Footage

The Cleaner Greener Southern Tier Regional Sustainability Plan developed in coordination with the Regional Economic Development Councils calls out solar as a priority initiative. The Cleaner Greener Plan suggests that solar can produce 2% of total electricity in our region, with a doubling of capacity every four years. (See (pdf) p. 21)

Click here to learn more about Solar power.

Next Steps

  • Identify the next projects and funding opportunities.


  • Obtain support and approval from the unit that has stewardship responsibility for potential project locations, since encumbering a rooftop or land parcel for solar energy production is a long-term commitment that must be weighed against other potential uses and maintenance needs.
  • Meet economic criteria for internal approval of renewable energy projects. Currently solar energy projects in the Southern Tier require subsidies (NYSERDA grants, tax benefits, donations, etc.) to bring their costs on par with grid electricity.

Learn more about the science, design and installation of the solar array at Cornell Snyder Road Solar Farm.