“It doesn’t matter if they’re rocket scientists. Doing the perfect poached egg is still kind of important.”
This system lives just below ground, a block off Washington Square Park, underneath a pleasant walkway spotted with local grasses and benches. If you sit and listen quietly, you can hear the noise of the turbines spinning at 13,000 revolutions per minute below. Once, the university created energy in this spot by burning oil. In that plant, you could smell the diesel exhaust fumes, Merrihue, the plant manager, tells me. But this new plant, which opened in 2011, starts by burning natural gas, which produces less air pollution and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. After that fuel produces electricity, the plant takes the leftover energy and uses it over and over again. "That's what gets us the efficiency”—almost 90 percent, says Merrihue. The hot exhaust from two gas-fired turbines fuels a steam turbine, which produces additional electricity. The leftover steam travels to a hot water heat exchanger and then to a chiller, where the last bit of energy is used to cool a 2400-gallon tank of water down to 45 degrees.
But given that 20 percent of American students live in poverty, will this limited amount of money scale up the interventions fast enough to make a difference for kids?