Cornell University Lake Source Cooling Project

Cornell University created an innovative deep water source cooling project using nearby Cayuga Lake as a non-contact cooling source for the campus chilled water system, which provides central cooling to about 4 million square feet of campus. The Lake Source Cooling (LSC) project provides up to 20,000 tons of cooling with an 86% reduction in energy use versus conventional cooling alternatives. Described as “a project that supports a sustainable future,” the LSC reduced Cornell’s reliance on fossil fuels and saves approximately 25,000,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity annually.

Pressures on the university's existing highly efficient central campus chilled water system necessitated a substantial change. Following a feasibility study, which included hydraulic modelling of the cooling system, LSC was determined as the optimal solution. Though it required more initial investment than standard refrigeration technology, LSC provided a lake water cooling method that eliminates CFC-containing refrigeration equipment and its associated energy use.

LSC draws cold water through a 2 mm wedge-wire screened intake about 10 feet above the bottom of Cayuga Lake. This cold water is piped to a shoreline heat exchange facility, where it transfers its coldness through solid stainless-steel plates to water that circulates to the campus in a second loop of pipeline. The two water flows can never mix. The lake water is returned through a diffuser located about 500 feet offshore. The only change in the lake water is the addition of heat, which is released each winter. The chilled campus water cools campus equipment and buildings via a closed-loop system. No extra energy is required beyond that needed to move the water through the pipes.

  • The Associated General Contractors of America (AGCA) Marvin M. Black Excellence in Partnering Award
  • International District Energy Association (IDEA) System of the Year Award
  • American Association of Heating, Ventilation & Air Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) Regional and Societal Level Technology Awards
  • Association of Energy Engineers (AEE) Energy Project of the Year Award
  • American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) New York Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement
  • New York State Society of Professional Engineers (NYSSPE) Outstanding Engineering Achievement Award
  • New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) Governors Award for Pollution Prevention
  • Ecological Society of America (ESA) Award for Special Recognition
Project Services:
  • Feasibility Study
  • Equipment Specification and Technical Administration
  • Multi-Discipline Detail-Design of Complete Plant