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UAlbany Works to Reduce Harmful Carbon Emissions on Nation’s Roadways and Across Campus

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Contact(s):  Catherine Herman (518) 956-8150

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SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and UAlbany President George Philip take a bike ride on campus to promote sustainability.

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and UAlbany President George Philip take a bike ride on campus to promote environmental sustainability. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

ALBANY, N.Y. (September 22, 2009) -- State University of New York Chancellor Nancy J. Zimpher joined University at Albany President George M. Philip today to announce two new campus environmental sustainability initiatives that aim to reduce harmful carbon emissions on the nation’s roadways and across campus. The initiatives, which have garnered corporate and state support, involve research into minimizing harmful automobile emissions and a new campus transportation program for students, faculty and staff.

School of Business Associate Professor Sanjay Goel has been awarded corporate and state funding for research into the coordination and optimization of traffic signals as a means to minimize wait-times at intersections, thereby reducing automobile engine idling time and greenhouse gas emissions. For this work, Goel is one of three recipients of a prestigious $25,000 AT&T Industrial Ecology Faculty Fellowship. His project is also supported by funding from the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) worth $105, 945, which includes support from UAlbany.

UAlbany is also introducing several alternative transportation options for commuting students, faculty and staff, including hybrid buses, Global Electric Motorcars (GEM), public bus systems and bike and ride sharing programs. The aim is to reduce the University’s carbon footprint and environmental impact. Each day, faculty, staff and students commute to UAlbany campuses by themselves, comprising 18 percent of the University’s greenhouse gas emissions in 2008.

The University’s initiatives advance one of Chancellor Zimpher’s SUNY-wide missions to reduce the environmental footprint of its 64 campuses and to address the challenge of climate change and global warming.

“One of the highest priorities throughout the SUNY system is emphasis on sustainability research and practice,” said Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher. “The University at Albany is proactively leading environmental initiatives and serving as a role model to bring about positive change with the transformational integration of ‘green’ practice, teaching and research on its campus.”

“I am encouraged by the large numbers of UAlbany faculty, staff and students who are committed to advancing sustainability both on our campus and beyond,” said President George M. Philip. “Professor Goel’s research, the campus transportation programs, and our many other initiatives will have a positive impact on the world’s environmental challenges.”

"Traffic lights are complex because there is no central system controlling them," said Goel, director of research at the New York State Center for Information Forensics and Assurance. "If we reprogram these lights so that they talk to each other and keep adapting, we can significantly reduce idle time, which decreases the amount of greenhouse gas emissions, as well as driver frustration and wait time."

Goel’s traffic-light project is inspired by the behavior of social insects that are able to communicate with their neighbors to coordinate their activities and demonstrate remarkable efficiency and resilience in their tasks.

"Such collaborations illustrate how public/private partnerships leverage resources to simultaneously create value for firms and for society,” said School of Business Dean Don Siegel. “These research projects will yield important practical results for industry and improve the quality of our lives, by enhancing environmental performance and allowing individuals and corporations to use time more efficiently.”

"AT&T is proud to recognize the University at Albany and Professor Goel and his research through the AT&T Industrial Ecology Faculty Fellowship program," said AT&T Assistant Vice President of Environmental, Health and Safety Clair Krizov. "These fellowships are designed to support research that can contribute to solving global and regional environmental challenges and help shape environmentally and economically efficient strategies for the future."

SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher, UAlbany President George Philip, Associate Professor Sanjay Goel

UAlbany President George Philip, SUNY Chancellor Nancy Zimpher and Associate Professor Sanjay Goel discuss Goel's research on the study of traffic lights, which will aim to reduce carbon emissions. (Photo Mark Schmidt)

“We are pleased and eager to once again provide support to innovative UAlbany research and demonstration projects that will help us meet Governor Paterson’s goals to reduce vehicle miles traveled and improve air quality, especially through state institutional efforts,” said NYSERDA President and CEO Francis J. Murray, Jr. “Last year, we combined research funds with the New York State Department of Transportation to assist UAlbany in analyzing commuter patterns, both at the University and at the adjoining State Office Campus. We expect solid participation and results from this neighborly outreach that broadens this program to even wider audiences and horizons.”

The University’s sustainable transportation program includes pollution-reducing vehicles in its maintenance and transportation fleet. UAlbany was recently awarded nearly $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Energy -- managed by NYSERDA -- to help fund five hybrid-electric buses and three GEMs, designed to reduce annual combined emissions of carbon monoxide, nitrogen dioxide, and sulfur dioxide pollutants by more than 1,700 lbs. The GEMs, run solely by electricity, and hybrid buses, fueled by a combination of gas/diesel and electricity, will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by nearly eight tons per year.

The new 30-36-seat passenger hybrid buses will be integrated into the University’s mass transit fleet and used for student, faculty, and staff transportation between the University’s various campuses. The University’s GEMs – which now total 13 -- are two and four-passenger, low-speed vehicles used for facilities services and repairs, athletics events and services, parking lot management and transportation of campus mail and small equipment.

Sustainable transportation options also include a bike sharing program -- initiated by UAlbany students -- in which donated bicycles and helmets are available for use on each residential quad. Other alternative options include bus systems through the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA), as well as ride sharing programs like Zipride and IPool2, allowing commuters from the same area to travel together.

“This new program is designed to improve transportation efficiency, which demonstrates UAlbany's fervent commitment to environmental stewardship and sets a positive example for the local and global communities,” said Director of Environmental Sustainability Mary Ellen Mallia.

UAlbany is committed to fostering, adopting and advancing an environment of sustainability on campus and beyond. Consistent with the University's dedication to its “Green Scene" efforts, UAlbany launched new initiatives this fall, including opening two environmental sustainability-themed residence halls for students on Colonial and Indian Quad and a newly-renovated Indian Quad Dining Hall featuring locally-grown produce, grass-fed beef, energy efficient heating and lighting systems. The University is expanding its annual fall energy savings campaign in residence halls to include academic and administrative buildings on campus.

About AT&T:
Since its inception in 1993, the AT&T Industrial Ecology Faculty Fellowship program has provided environmental research fellowships to leading universities and their outstanding academic researchers across the country. The program is one way that AT&T collaborates with premier academic institutions and universities to advance education and research and to enhance the company's ability to deliver innovative products and services. In 2009, AT&T again ranked No. 1 in the telecommunications industry on FORTUNE® magazine’s list of the World’s Most Admired Companies.

About NYSERDA:
The New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA) was established by law in 1975 as a public benefit corporation. NYSERDA provides energy-related technical and financial packaging assistance to businesses and institutions to promote energy efficiency and economic development, as well as providing energy research and development programs that promote safe and economical energy production efficiency technologies in New York State.  NYSERDA also analyzes the effect of New York’s energy, regulatory and environmental policies on the State’s business, institutional, and residential energy consumers.

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Educationally and culturally, the University at Albany-SUNY puts "The World Within Reach" for its 18,000 students. An internationally recognized research university with 58 undergraduate majors and 128 graduate degree programs, UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as public policy, nanotechnology and criminal justice. With a curriculum enhanced by 300 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers. For more information about this globally ranked University, visit www.albany.edu. For UAlbany's extensive roster of faculty experts, visit www.albany.edu/news/experts.shtml.

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