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Research Initiatives

In this Section

Green Data Center Computing: Energy Policy, Economic Analysis, and Operational Optimization
Stephen Bird, Martin Heintzelman, Joseph Skufca, Lei Wu

This multi-disciplinary project combines work from several areas of the university in engineering, public policy, and financial studies. It addresses several important energy policy, economic, and operational concerns related to a NYSERDA funded engineering project that develops the concept of "Green Data Computing Centers." It addresses challenges associated with both the migration to a cloud computing infrastructure, and the use of distributed and alternative electricity generation, with a specific focus on renewable energy sources.

The Social Impacts of Wind Turbines: Results from a Choice Experiment
Martin Heintzelman and Stephen Sauer

This projects uses the results of a choice experiment, implemented through an online survey instrument, to examine preferences for proximity to wind turbines as compared to other industrial facilities of electricity transmission lines. The results will provide insight into social acceptance for wind technology across the country.

Ecological, Social and Economic Aspects of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Wetland Reserve Program
Tom Langen, Michael Twiss, Martin Heintzelman, Rick Welsh

This interdisciplinary project seeks to develop a theoretical and empirical model that allows policy makers to understand the interactive effects of biodiversity richness, property values and landowner satisfaction for private wetlands enrolled in the USDA program. 

The Valuation of Environmental Amenities in the Adirondacks as Measured by Property Values
Martin Heintzelman and Carrie M. Tuttle (ESE Ph.D. Candidate)

This project analyzes property sales transactions, over space and time, in the Adirondacks, to explore the effects of changes in environmental amenities, including water quality, the presence or absence of signature animal species as well as invasive species, and ecological integrity, on property values. It also explores how land-use regulations designed to preserve wild areas in the Adirondacks interact with environmental amenities in their effect on property values. Property values are a proxy for land-owner preferences and willingness-to-pay for these amenities.

Policy Options for the Split Incentive: Increasing Energy Efficiency for Low-Income Residential Renters
Stephen Bird and Diana Hernandez (Columbia University)

This research develops a new policy model to attempt to address the pernicious problem of split incentives in energy efficiency in low-income assisted housing. Landlords have no incentive to invest in high efficiency building infrastructure (heating, electricity, furnace, air conditioning, insulation,etc.) because the do not reap any of the savings. This work develops innovative approaches to solving this challenge.

The Politics of Renewable Portfolio Standards: Design Considerations and Best Practices
Stephen Bird and Mark Huber (ESE Master's Student)

The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is one of the most consistently used environmental policies used in the United States and arguably the world. Despite this, it has been the subject of significant criticism. Arguments include concerns for economic inefficiency, unintended consequences, inadequate pairing with other environmental policies, greenwashing, and political expediency. In this paper, we review the political reasons - good and bad - behind the popularity of the RPS and examine a series of best practices that can ameliorate the benefits and decrease some of the disadvantages. We ultimately conclude that a well-designed RPS may be the most expedient choice for policy-makers particularly when the most efficient policies for renewable implementation and carbon reduction are not politically feasible.

Chemical Risk Assessment and Prioritization Tool
Stephen Bird

This paper develops and describes research from 2005 with the Massachusetts Office of Technical Assistance and the Executive Office of Environmental Affairs. It is a comprehensive chemical risk assessment tool that helps facilities reduce chemical usage and implement pollution prevention measures. This comprehensive approach is significantly different from previous assessment processes because it combines several different and uncommon risk factors, and for the comprehensiveness of its assessment. The system rates a state-wide population of facilities that use threshold quantities of chemicals in the state, and allows for incorporation of less apparent risk factors such as a facility's credit rating and facility type. Standard risk factors derived from chemical usage are also used.

Farm-Waste-to-Energy: Anaerobic Digesters for Smaller-Scale Dairy Farms
Stefan Grimberg, Shane Rogers, Rick Welsh

This interdisciplinary project attempts to develop an alternative energy technology for application on smaller dairy farms (100 cows or less). This research fills a valuable niche since the vast majority of anaerobic digester research is targeted to large to very large farms. 

Ecosystem Metaphysics
William Vitek 

This multidisciplinary project seeks to explore recent work in ecosystems and Earth systems science as expressions of a deep metaphysical re-conceptualization of nature that can trace its beginning to Henry David Thoreau's 1862 essay "Walking" and his claim that "In Wilderness is the Preservation of the World."

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