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Great Lakes Article:

Syracuse hopes to save energy using Lake Ontario water
The Associated Press
Published October 24th, 2004


SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Cornell University has done it. So has Canada's largest city.

Now a group of community leaders wants Syracuse to follow suit and become the first city in the United States to cool its downtown buildings with lake water.

The impetus? Using water from Lake Ontario would save millions of dollars in energy costs. The naturally chilled water from the lake's bottom would be pumped to Syracuse, used to remove heat from air conditioning systems in public and private buildings, and recycled into Onondaga Lake.

An intended bonus: Millions of gallons of clean, oxygen-rich water from Lake Ontario would help speed the cleanup of Onondaga Lake, one of the nation's most polluted bodies of water.

"I would be the first one to sign up," said Cornelius B. Murphy Jr., president of the State University College of Environmental Science and Forestry. "This is the kind of thing that could put our community on the cover of Time Magazine."

Murphy said using Lake Ontario water to cool his campus buildings could cut electric bills for air conditioning by 75 percent or more.

U.S. Rep. James Walsh likes the idea, too. He included money in a House Appropriations bill for fiscal 2005 to conduct an engineering and feasibility study. Local officials say the project could help fuel the region's growth by lowering the cost of utility bills.

Walsh agrees.

"The idea is to have a renewable energy source with unlimited chilling power," Walsh said. "After it's used, you're pumping all of this highly oxygenated, fresh, clean water back through the Onondaga Lake system. It's a win-win situation."

To find out if the plan will work, and how much it would cost, Walsh asked for a $1.5 million grant for Onondaga County's Metropolitan Water Board. The money is expected to be approved by Congress by the end of the year and the study could start in early 2005.

Toronto, on the other side of Lake Ontario, this summer became the first city in North America to build such a system. The $169 million project now cools about 10 downtown office towers and other buildings, including The Air Canada Centre, the city's indoor sports arena.

Toronto's Deep Lake Water Cooling system could eventually serve up to 100 buildings, said Lisa Belanger, spokeswoman for Enwave Energy Corp., the system developer and owner.

Enwave says its project reduces energy use by 75 percent compared to mechanical chillers used in air conditioning, and could ultimately free more than 59 megawatts from Ontario's electrical grid. The project also keeps about 40,000 tons of carbon dioxide pollution from power plants out of the air, the equivalent of taking 8,000 cars off the road.

Before Toronto built its large-scale system, Cornell University in Ithaca used the same technology with Cayuga Lake when it opened the Cornell Lake Source Cooling project four years ago. Cornell's $58 million project, which cools about 75 campus buildings, was the first in North America to use a lake for air conditioning.

Now the four-year-old system is paying big dividends: The university says it reduced its power costs for cooling by 86 percent or 25 million kilowatt hours, saving about $2 million per year on its electric bill.

Lanny Joyce, senior engineer and energy manager for Cornell's Department of Utilities and Energy Management, said that while the cost of installing lake source cooling is nearly twice that of conventional air conditioning, the system pays for itself in the long run and provides an environmentally sound source of renewable energy.

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