Sept. 22, 2010

N.Y. Power Authority president touts sustainability efforts

A Sept. 21 visit to campus by Richard Kessel, president and CEO of the New York Power Authority, was highlighted by a discussion with local leaders of Cornell and Tompkins County about New York state efforts toward sustainability and energy efficiency.

Kessel's stopover at Cornell included meeting with about 20 campus and municipal officials to brief them on statewide energy projects ranging from solar panels to wind farms. In turn, he heard presentations on what Cornell and the surrounding community are doing to become more efficient and less dependent on fossil fuels.

Kessel heads the country's largest state public power organization, which generates about 25 percent of the electricity used in New York state. During his presentation, he stressed his commitment to integrating sustainability initiatives with economic development.

"Right now I believe that, other than keeping the lights on ... in this economy it's all about bringing new companies to New York and keeping companies in New York," Kessel said.

He described public works projects, such as a 100-megawatt solar energy installation being planned for next year, that are creating jobs and also leading the state into a renewable energy future.

Among the event's invited presenters was David Dieterich, partnerships director of the Cornell Center for a Sustainable Future, who briefed Kessel on the organization's research and funding efforts and its multidisciplinary faculty. Others, such as Cornell Facilities Services Vice President Kyu Whang, talked about Cornell's commitment toward being coal-free, and the many ways it is implementing its Climate Action Plan.

K.C. Alvey '12, president of the student Sustainability Hub, described outreach efforts for educating students and such activities as Lights Off Cornell, in which student volunteers turn out lights in campus buildings during non-peak hours.

During his visit, Kessel also met with scientists and others about the Energy Recovery Linac, a proposed new linear accelerator for X-ray science. Cornell officials expressed their desire to obtain low-cost, carbon-free electricity for this National Science Foundation-sponsored research and development project.