• Cornell University Optimizes Energy Efficiency With iFIX

    Cornell University uses GE Digital software for increased energy savings. Photo: Cornell University


One of the leading learning institutions in the world, Cornell University, located in Ithaca, New York, is practically a city in itself. With over 34,000 students and staff at peak attendance during the academic year, the school maintains 260 major buildings on 745 contiguous acres. Both a private university and the land-grant institution of New York State, the 145-year old university prides itself on being an educationally diverse member of the Ivy League. The campus consumes up to 35-megawatt (MW) capability to power the buildings that make up the school.

The Lake Source Cooling (LSC) project is an upgrade of the central campus chilled water system with a more environmentally-sound design that conserves energy and utilizes a renewable resource: the deep cold waters of nearby Cayuga Lake. It provides the university with a more cost-effective method of cooling that minimizes complex chilling equipment and reduces its associated energy use by 80%, providing significant cost and environmental benefits. In an effort to conserve electricity and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, Cornell sought a visualization and control system to monitor its operations and drive down operational costs.


The university leveraged iFIX from GE Digital and Historian from GE Digital, part of the HMI/SCADA suite to monitor and control major aspects of the campus facility operations, including lake source cooling, water filtration, and steam and power generation. In addition, Cornell implemented GE Digital's Mobile to deliver real-time operational intelligence from across these facilities’ systems, enhancing the use of iFIX for campus-wide monitoring and control.

Chosen for its ability to interface with a wide variety of devices, iFIX monitors the process from the central plant, alongside independent video cameras for visual inspection. Data collected via Historian enables the university to measure effectiveness, and the data is shared with other applications directly and is exported for statistical analysis. iFIX helps control and monitor the pumps, electrical components, and pressure sensing on the innovative and groundbreaking CSC cooling project.

The software solution, in conjunction with accurate sensors, drives preventative maintenance actions to avoid reduced flow situations from lake debris and zebra mussel buildup. It generates alarms and warnings on the connected equipment and identifies where maintenance is required to remove buildup of debris in the pipes—supporting stable and safe control of the entire system.

Cornell University uses GE Digital software to increase its energy savings. Photo: Cornell University

The HMI/SCADA solution consists of two pairs of redundant iFIX systems to control and monitor the pumps and chemical distribution. It interfaces with a variety of sensors and a PLC-based control system to provide full visibility to the water system and easy integration with other GE and third-party systems. Operators use the system’s trending capability and general visualization to ensure water quality and centralize process set point inputs.

Cornell also operates its own on-campus central utility energy plant, with a primary objective to create steam for heating the more than 270 campus buildings, and a secondary objective of generating electricity to run the chilling units and building power. Natural gas turbines and natural gas boilers help generate steam. The HMI/SCADA solution provides statistical analysis offline of steam production, electrical power generation and chilled water demand, providing visibility and critical decision support.

With thousands of equipment assets running 24/7, Cornell’s facilities management has information at its fingertips through the use of Mobile, which leverages the power of the Industrial Internet. For off-hours troubleshooting of its complex systems and equipment, the team can access information through standard iPad devices using this software application. Decisions regarding equipment assets such as choosing the right equipment based on changing weather conditions can significantly impact efficiency and energy usage.

Additionally, when an asset fails, a workaround must be implemented immediately. With iFIX and Mobile, the facilities team has key performance indicators (KPIs) available, anywhere, anytime—which improves decision making and speeds system troubleshooting, helping to get systems back online as efficiently as possible. Using Mobile, the university can monitor operations and drill into KPIs such as electrical distribution, equipment status, how much power the university is sending or receiving from the grid, power through breakers, and more


The HMI/SCADA solution from GE Digital has enabled Cornell to achieve key benefits, including 40% faster off-hours troubleshooting, increased energy savings, improved reliability, and higher equipment uptime. Moving forward, the university plans to expand its use with advanced alarming and analytics to avoid issues before they occur—further increasing asset uptime for optimized performance.

The results Cornell achieved with iFIX include:

  • 40% faster off-hours troubleshooting
  • Increased energy savings and lower operational costs
  • Improved uptime through proactive maintenance of equipment
  • Faster responsiveness to issues and better decision making
  • Better facilities management through increased process visibility

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