Energy @ NYU
- Where does electricity in the residence halls come from?
- How much carbon dioxide do different sources of energy emit?
- How much electricity does my residence hall use?
- What are the characteristics of each type of energy source?
Where does electricity in the residence halls come from?
- NYU consumes 150 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year - enough to power approximately 15,000 average US homes
- 18% of NYU’s electricity is generated by natural gas boilers at an on-site plant, and 82% is purchased from ConEdison off the New York State energy grid
- Once electricity is in the grid, it mixes with other sources and becomes indistinguishable, meaning you cannot determine exactly where the electricity you use comes from.
- In New York, the majority of energy put into the grid comes from natural gas fired power plants (34%), nuclear power plants (32%), coal-fired power plants (13.7%) and hydroelectric projects (15%).
How much carbon dioxide do different sources of energy emit?
- At least 90 percent of campus greenhouse gas emissions at NYU result from energy consumption. The impact of this was 171,000 metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE) in 2006 and has since been reduced to 137,000 MTCE in 2009.
- Absorbing all of the greenhouse gases emitted from NYU’s energy usage would require planting 18 million trees.
- One MTCE is equal to burning 114 gallons of gasoline or 1% of a railcar of coal.
- Electricity purchased off the grid from ConEd represents 18% of the total – which transfers into 25,320 MTCE emissions a year.
- The rest of the carbon comes from on-campus stationary sources such oil, gas and steam used for heating and cooling in campus buildings (53% of total) and from fuel consumed in the Central Plant for both heat and electricity (19% of total).
- Information about NYU and energy: NYU Climate Action Plan
- Information about New York Energy: from US Energy Information Administration
- Con Edison
How much electricity does my residence hall use?
- In 2009, the residence halls at NYU consumed approximately 39.6 million kwh of electricity – about a quarter of the University’s total electricity use.
- All of this electricity was purchased from ConEd.
- The average NYU student living in the residence halls consumes anywhere from 100 to 500 kwh a month.
- One kwh is the equivalent of running a blow dryer, vacuum cleaner or microwave for one hour.
- The carbon emissions associated with electricity used in NYU residence halls is equivalent to burning 43.6 railcars of coal, one million gallons of gasoline, or twenty thousand barrels of oil, and would be offset by 1,900 acres of pine forest.
- Calculate carbon equivalencies
- NYU Data on Dorm Electricity Profiles - NYU Construction and Facilities Management
What are the characteristics of each type of energy source?
- Nuclear Power accounts for approximately 32% of New York’s electricity mix and 19.4% of the US electricity mix.
- The nearest nuclear power plant to NYU is the Indian Point nuclear facility. This facility has two reactors and produces 39.8% of the State’s nuclear power with just under 17 million kwh a year.
- Nuclear power is produced by splitting atoms (nuclear fission) in nuclear reactors. The heat generated is used to boil water and make steam, which turns turbines and creates electricity.
- While nuclear power is relatively clean in terms of carbon emissions, the fuel used in nuclear reactions must be processed into a radioactive form. The waste of the process is also radioactive and deadly to humans for over 700 million years.
- The problem of what to do with nuclear waste has not been dealt with and currently the US government has no plan to deal with it in full. Meanwhile, as nuclear power is generated, more waste is generated – waste which currently sits in storage at nuclear power plants.
- Coal power accounts for approximately 13.7% of New York’s electricity mix but 49% of the US electricity mix.
- Coal power is generated by the combustion of coal to create steam and turn turbines in a power plant.
- In terms of carbon emissions and overall environmental impact, coal is the worst electricity source, responsible for 1,994 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006.
- Coal is also responsible for 288 million metric tons of methane emissions and 29 million metric tons of nitrous oxide. Both of these compounds cause acid rain.
- The average coal power plant burns approximately 1.4 tons of coal a year. The lifecycle footprint of coal is substantial. The mining process which often involves whole mountaintop removals is very detrimental to local environments and the transportation of coal from extraction point to power plant via barges, trains and trucks requires large amounts of energy. 66% of energy used in the entire process is wasted, leading to a 34% “efficiency” rating for the average coal plant.
- Energy Justice on Coal
- Energy Information administration data on coal: geography, price, consumption, emissions, etc.
- Natural gas fired power accounts for a large 34% of the New York electricity mix and 20% of the US electricity mix.
- Natural gas power is similar to coal – gas is burned to generate heat and steam.
- Natural gas, however, burns 60% cleaner than coal and was responsible for 318 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2006, 13 million metric tons of methane emissions, and 1 million metric tons of nitrous oxides.
- The domestic supply of natural gas is limited. However, the US government is pushing for a 41% increase of natural gas consumption by 2021. To cover the increase, at least 20% will need to be imported from foreign sources. To transport gas across oceans, it must be cooled into a form called liquefied natural gas (LNG). The lifecycle process requires substantially more energy than the domestic supply and the incorporation of LNG will require a substantial increase in US energy infrastructure such as import terminals and pipelines – which will be harmful to local ecosystems.
- Energy Justice on NG and LNG
- LNG in New York State: Long Island Sound citizens group opposing the construction of the Broadwater LNG import terminal
- Carnegie Melon study on lifecycle of natural gas
Wind power is one of the fastest growing sources of electricity in the United States, however still only accounts for less than 1% of our electricity mix. It’s created by wind turning large turbines connected to a generator. After the materials are constructed, wind power is completely renewable and generates no carbon emissions. However, there are limitations, wind power requires windy conditions, huge amounts of space and may be harmful to bird wildlife. In 2007, NYU purchased 132,000,000 kwh of wind power from Florida Power and Light. This means that NYU paid for 132,000,000 kwh of wind power to be put into the grid somewhere. This does not mean that the electricity in the NYU dorms is coming from wind power right now. Actually, the projects that will be developed as a result of this money will be primarily in Texas, and the NYU source breakdown will remain the same.
Learn more about NYU and wind: