Solar Energy

Cornell University is committed to powering the campus with 100% renewable energy by 2035 as part of our commitment to carbon neutrality. We develop renewable energy resources that benefit our campus, community, and New York State, with an emphasis on large-scale solar farms and community solar projects. 


A sheep chews grass in front of a solar panel
Meet Our Mowers. We're using fossil-fuel free mowing on all our solar facilities that benefits New York State Farmers - meet our solar mowing sheep.

Our solar portfolio  

Cornell has completed 15 solar energy projects to date - 6 solar farms, 6 campus arrays, and 3 solar heating projects - in addition to a mobile solar trailer for sustainable landscaping. 

Over 20% of campus electricity needs are met by our solar projects, though our renewable production regularly meets 100% of campus demand on sunny, high producing days year-round.  Additional solar projects already underway will help the campus meet 100% of our year-round demand by the end of the early 2020s.

Click the link for each project below to learn more about production, research, economic impact, and more.


Fast Facts About Cornell Solar
 

+20% annual

campus electricity needs are
met by our solar farms

15 solar projects 

produce clean,
renewable energy

9 buildings

on campus have solar
power or heat systems

There are many reasons why Cornell University is demonstrating leadership in solar energy development in New York State. Cornell was the first Ivy and one of the first fifty campuses in the nation to sign the President's Carbon Commitment, undertaking the ambitious goal to reach carbon neutrality for campus operations by 2035.  Additionally:

  • Solar development on our campus and in our state helps create a fossil-fuel-free grid 

  • By creating new, renewable energy resources we are helping support New York State and Tompkins County goals for carbon neutrality and green energy development

  • Developing our own on-campus and solar farm resources creates and keeps jobs and resources in our community and state

  • Our solar facilities are powerful living laboratory spaces for testing new sustainability solutions - like creating a solar grazing program for New York State farmers - and offer teaching space for students and local K12 schools


Meet Our Solar Projects

 On-Campus Solar 

 9 projects for energy and heat

Jump to see details by project

 Solar Arrays & Projects
  • (2006) Day Hall Solar Array

  • (2007) Cornell Campus Store Solar Array

  • (2012) Human Ecology Solar Array

  • (2014) Fernow Hall Solar Skylight

  • (2014) Snee Hall Solar Array

  • (2015) Klarman Hall Solar Array 

 Solar Heating
  • (2011) Central Energy Plant Solar Heating

  • (2012) Cornell Botanic Gardens Nevin Welcome Center Solar Heating

  • (2021) Guterman Lab Solar Collector

Solar Farms 

6 projects producing 28MW

Jump to see details by project

  • (2014) Snyder Road Solar Farm, Lansing NY

  • (2015) Sutton Road Solar Farm, New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva NY

  • (2016) Cornell Ruminant Center Solar Farm, Cornell University Ruminant Center, Harford NY 

  • (2016) Musgrave East and Musgrave West Solar Farms, Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station, Ledyard NY

  • (2019) Cascadilla Community Solar Farm, Dryden NY

Other Projects 


Solar Video

Watch our promotional video about the Cornell University Solar Farms produced by the Campus Sustainability Office 2021


Thank You to Our Partners

Distributed Sun LLC Logo
 

Development of our solar resources would not be possible without the support and partnership of our solar developers.

Cornell University's solar farms are developed on Cornell-owned land in partnership with Distributed Sun and Building Asset Management, LLC via power purchase agreements. 


Research Resources

EMCS Dashboard

Real Time Solar Data

Explore solar production by on-campus and off-campus arrays, including data views for daily, monthly, or year-to-year comparison.
 

Study of campus rooftop solar

Rooftop Solar Study

Should we develop solar arrays on-campus?  Read Cornell's in-depth analysis performed as a living laboratory project by students & staff.

Group standing near Cornell solar array

Tours & Site Access

Interested in visiting with a class, performing research, or bringing a community group to a solar farm?

Find Solar on the Map

Where are our solar farms and on-campus projects? Find them on the Sustainability Map
 

Solar Sheep Mowing

Research on using sheep for grounds maintenance of solar farms
 

 
Are you a student or faculty interested in research using Cornell's solar projects?
Contact the Campus Sustainability Office for support.

sustainability@cornell.edu 

Expand each section to learn more about solar production, and the history of our solar farm development on Cornell-owned land in New York State. Our solar farms produce 28MWac, or 40MWdc.

A group of student poses in front of Snyder Farm's solar panels
Snyder Road solar farm hosts many educational tours each year

Snyder Road Solar Farm (2014)
Lansing NY

Cornell’s first solar farm, Snyder Road Solar Farm was the first megawatt-scale renewable energy generation project undertaken by the campus since the hydropower plant came online in 1904.  Snyder Road was the first of Cornell’s solar farms to pilot using sheep to mow the grass and was developed on land with limited development potential. The facility has a 30 year PPA and generates renewable energy credits (RECs).

Research at this Site

A special 10 panel educational section was constructed for students and faculty to physically experiment with solar energy. The living lab solar area is separately metered, separately fenced and has a tilt rack system to allows researchers to show changes in solar output by tweaking the positioning of a small portion of the solar panels.

Other Research: Hydrology impacts; small mammals and predation

Special Project Features

The solar facility is sited on lands with limited development potential.  Historic operations on nearby land left soil and groundwater compromised and unfit for redevelopment.  By building solar at the property, Cornell restored undesirable property – located at the end of an airport runway - to productive use.

The solar farm layout was designed to avoid, and protect, wetlands on the property.  The final design integrates the wetlands in the center of the arrays, allowing for both ecological habitat and renewable energy production. 


Project Details
  • Date Online: 2014

  • Size: 2MW / 2.5 million KWH annual production on 11 acres of land

  • Cornell Impact: Provides about 1% of Cornell’s annual electricity needs. 450 MTCO2e / year carbon reduction, about .2% of campus carbon footprint


News & Resources
 
Drone image of Sutton Road Solar Farm panels
The Sutton Road Solar Farm produces 40% of the annual electricity demand for the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station

Sutton Road Solar Farm (2016)
New York State Agricultural Experiment Station, Geneva NY

Cornell’s second solar farm, Sutton Road Solar Farm in Geneva, NY provides 40% of the annual electricity demand for the New York State Agricultural Experiment Station located there.  Solar sheep are used to mow the grass. The facility has a 30 year PPA and generates renewable energy credits (RECs)  - the estimated RECs value in the first year of production was approximately $3,400. 

Research at this Site

Using the sheep at the solar farm-inspired grape researcher on the adjacent plot to try using dwarf sheep to maintain vegetation around the vines instead of herbicides.


Project Details
  • Date Online: 2016

  • Size: 2MW / 3.2 million KWH annual production on 13 acres of land 

  • Cornell Impact: Provides about 40% of the Experiment station electricity needs annually


News & Resources
Drone image of the Cornell Ruminant Center Solar Farm panels
At the request of the Town of Harford, the project team was careful to preserve access to a snowmobile trail running adjacent to the solar farm

Cornell Ruminant Center Solar Farm (2016) 

Cornell University Ruminant Center, Harford NY 

 

Completed in 2016, the Cornell Ruminant Center Solar Farm located in Harford NY uses solar sheep to mow the grass and was designed for more energy to be captured in the “shoulder production” periods, early morning and late evening, than in previous solar farm projects. By allowing for capture in a greater range of solar production, Cornell is able to stay within the regulatory limits and gain further solar energy returns for the array. The project was designed to allow a popular snowmobile trail to continue running adjacent to the solar farm. The facility has a 30 year PPA and generates renewable energy credits (RECs). 


Project Details
  • Date Online: 2016

  • Size: 2MW / 3.3 million KWH annual production on 13 acres of land 

  • Cornell Impact: Provides about 1.5% of Cornell's annual electricity needs


News & Resources
Drone image of the Musgrave East & West Solar Farms
Drone image of the Musgrave East & West Solar Farms

Musgrave East & Musgrave West Solar Farms (2016) 

Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station, Ledyard NY 

Musgrave East and Musgrave West Solar Farms (located at the Cornell Agricultural Experiment Station but developed as two separate projects to maximize energy production potential).  The projects have a 30 year PPAs  and generate renewable energy credits (RECs). 

Research at this Site 

An ongoing study on the “agricultural, economic and environmental potential of co-locating utility scale solar with grazing sheep” was undertaken by Nikola Kochendoerfer – Cornell University, Animal Science Department Lexie Hain – Agrivoltaic Solutions LLC & American Solar Grazing Association Michael L. Thonney – Cornell University, Animal Science Department. The aim of this study was to compare economic and agricultural benefits and challenges of traditional land management strategies (mowing, string trimming) with rotationally grazed sheep on solar sites. 


Project Details
  • Date Online: 2016

  • Size: 4MW / 6.6 KWH annual production on 28 acres of land, combined  (two 2MW solar farms producing 3.3 KWH annual each)

  • Cornell Impact: Provides about 3% of Cornell's annual electricity needs


News & Resources
Drone image of the Cascadilla Community Farm solar panels
Cascadilla Community Solar Farm is the largest community solar farm operating in upstate New York, as of the early 2020s. 

Cascadilla Community Solar Farm (2019) 

Dryden NY 

The Cascadilla Community Solar Farm located on Cornell-owned lands in Dryden, NY allowed the University to lease non-producing farmland to a solar developer who provides solar power to local families in surrounding communities.  Cornell claims the RECs or ‘renewable energy credits’ from the project as part of the climate action plan goal to reach carbon neutrality by 2035.  The project serves over 3,000 families in upstate New York.  The project was more than quadruple the size of any previous solar project undertaken by the University. Eight arrays are grouped on three subsites. 

Special Project Features

Cascadilla Community Solar Farm is the largest community solar farm operating in upstate New York, as of the early 2020s. Community solar farms are a smart and socially just method of renewable energy development, as a way to make renewable energy accessible to everyone.  Customers benefit by avoiding high upfront costs and maintenance, and purchasing cheaper electricity.


Project Details
  • Date Online: 2019

  • Size: 18MW / 25 million KWH annual production on 125 acres of land

  • Cornell Impact: Provides about 13% of Cornell's annual electricity needs


News & Resources

NY Large Scale Renewable Energy  (NCRE)
Projected Completion: Early 2020s 

As of early 2018, 20 State University of New York (SUNY) and private NYS higher education institutions have joined together to form a consortium for developing and purchasing new, large scale renewable energy projects.

The newly launched NY Higher Education LSRE Project seeks to lower financial barriers to renewable energy procurement through combined purchases.  If successful, the project will become the largest renewable energy consortium to develop in New York State, and the United States, and the largest consortium of higher education institutions to create new renewable energy resources in the world.The consortium plans to consider large-scale solar photovoltaic, wind, hydroelectric and/or energy storage projects for new development with intent to bring projects online in the early 2020s.

News & Resources

Solar energy can be harnessed for power or heating campus buildings and has been used as part of many campus buildings' LEED certification design process.  

Day Hall (2006)

Day Hall’s rooftop solar project was developed in 2006 thanks to generous donations from the Krich Family Solar Fund and Cornell trustee emeritus Dick Aubrecht '66, Ph.D. '70. At the time, it was the third-largest solar array in Tompkins County. The solar panels were the first rooftop solar project on the Cornell campus, and generate enough electricity to light the clocktower!

  • Panels: 54

  • Production Power: 15 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: 6%

Day hall rooftop solar panels

Cornell Campus Store Loading Dock (2007)

The Cornell Store system was installed concurrent with the Day Hall array in late 2006, early 2007.  The array produces about 1,500 to 1,800 kilowatt hours, worth about $150 to $180 a year when the system was installed.

  • Panels: 8

  • Production Power: 2.2 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: 0.2%

Campus Store rooftop solar panels

College of Human Ecology (2012) 

The Human Ecology Building’s rooftop solar project was developed in 2012 by Distributed Sun in partnership with the Colleges of Arts and Sciences, the College of Human Ecology, Cornell Energy and Sustainability, and Building Energy. The Human Ecology Building was the first building on campus that achieved LEED® Platinum. This is the largest rooftop array on campus, as of 2020.

  • Panels: 228

  • Production Power: 76 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: 6%

Human ecology building rooftop solar panels

Fernow Hall (2014)

Fernow Hall's rooftop solar project features PV skylights and traditional PV panels. Typically, skylights require some shading to block sunlight during the most intense periods of the day, but solar integrated glass provides a dual benefit by blocking glare, reducing cooling loads, and producing renewable energy.

  • Panels: 2 panels and 5 pyramid-shaped skylights with PV cells

  • Production Power: 2.2 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: 1%

Fernow Hall's solar PV glass skylights

Snee Hall (2014)

Snee Hall's rooftop solar array was developed in 2014 by Cornell University Sustainable Design (CUSD) student group. 

  • Panels: 18

  • Production Power: 3.5 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: %

A solar panel from snee hall with students

Klarman Hall (2015)

Klarman Hall’s rooftop solar project was developed in 2015 by Distributed Sun in partnership with Cornell Energy Sustainability and the Colleges of Arts and Sciences. Klarman Hall is a LEED Certified Platinum green building due to its array of sustainable features, including a rainwater reclamation system, living green roof areas, and light wells.

  • Panels: 64

  • Production Power: 20 kW

  • % of building’s electricity: 50%

Klarman Hall rooftop solar panels

A rooftop solar thermal system provides hot water for building heating and for shower/service water use, significantly reducing the amount of natural gas consumption.

Cornell has two solar heating systems in operation. The Central Energy Plant office and the Brain C. Nevin Welcome Welcome Center systems both use evacuated tube solar collectors, featuring glass tubes with black surface coating to absorb solar energy.  

Central Energy Plant Solar Heating System (2011)

 The 120,000 Btu/hr peak output on the roof provides the majority of the offices yearly domestic hot water heating needs as well as approximately 15% of the yearly building comfort heating needs. 
This solar heating system was put into place as part of the building’s LEED Gold Certification and paired with energy efficiency upgrades.

Cornell Botanic Gardens Nevin Welcome Center Solar Heating System (2012)

A similar solar thermal system as the CEP, the Nevin Welcome Center’s LEED Gold Certified building has 65,000 Btu/hr peak output or approximately 10% of the yearly building comfort heating needs.

Guterman Lab Solar Collector (2021) 

An innovative solar collector system installed atop Guterman Research Center uses mirror technology to capture sunlight and turn it into thermal energy that will help heat the facility’s water distribution network. The intelligent mirror array was the first of its kind at Cornell and the seventh on-campus solar system. The system is expected to annually reduce the facility’s campus steam consumption by 122 million Btus and offset approximately 4% of the facility’s summer heat load. 


 
Architectural Rendering of North Campus Extension
NCRE solar could generate about 1MW of electricity a year
North Campus Residential Solar Array (1MW)
Projected Completion: 2021 

From the rooftops of Cornell’s proposed North Campus Residential Expansion (NCRE), the university hopes to gather enough solar energy to offset about 1 megawatt of electricity annually and further reduce the university’s carbon footprint.

News & Resources

Solar Sheep Mowing

Cornell University has used its solar farms as living laboratory spaces to test, perfect, and create pilot materials for New York State farmers on co-beneficial use of sheep to maintain the grass and other materials in solar farms or large-scale arrays.  

Solar grazing is the use of livestock to maintain vegetation under solar panels. It is just one practice under the larger umbrella of “agrivoltaics”: combining agricultural and renewable energy production on the same piece of land. Utilizing sheep for site vegetation has resulted in “2.5 times fewer labor hours than mechanical and pesticide management on site.”

All of Cornell's solar farms use solar sheep mowing crews! 

News & Resources