The 170 greenhouses managed by CUAES are vital for research and teaching. Yet they use large amounts of energy. CUAES has taken on the challenge, to boost energy efficiency and sustainability while cutting costs and maintaining or improving the growing environment - not only for today, but with the flexibility to incorporate yet better ways to be more sustainable in the future.
Learn about our campaign to lower the energy use of CUAES greenhouses.
Reuse & Recycle: Greenhouse Plastics
Cornell greenhouses use tens of thousands of polypropylene pots and trays every year. Whenever possible, they are sterilized and reused. Those past their prime can now be recycled, finding new life as ice scrapers, rakes, brooms and the like. Special polypropylene collection bins are located at six greenhouses around campus.
Virtually all other greenhouse plastics can now be recycled as well—from plastic tags, shrink wrap and vent tubes to peat and fertilizer bags. Even pesticide containers don't have to be tossed anymore, as they have their separate cleaning and collection system.
Program partners: R5 Operations, Recycling Ag Plastics Project (RAPP) and the SHEM Committee.
Upgrades to the heating, venting and lighting control systems from inefficient analog to computerized controls, are currently underway in 47 greenhouses. The new controls respond quickly to their environment, turning lights, vents or thermostats on or off, depending on need.
If, for example, ample sunlight is streaming in, lights will shut off automatically and heating and cooling are properly coordinated to save energy. This eliminates previous inefficiencies while providing optimum growing conditions for plants at all times. All controls tie into a centralized digital control system that can be managed remotely.
In addition, old 1000 watt metal halide lights in 26 of the greenhouse chambers are being replaced by 400 and 600 watt high pressure sodium lights, reducing energy use, while improving the uniformity of the light for more efficient plant growth.
The combined savings from these two upgrades are huge: an estimated 30-40% of the total energy consumption along with a 35% saving on steam heat.
This project is a joint effort of the office of Energy & Sustainability and the Cornell University Agricultural Experiment Station.