Geothermal Energy for Cornell’s Ithaca Campus
Cornell University is looking to become the first major university in a northern climate to completely heat and cool its campus using local, renewable, sustainable energy sources with net-zero carbon-based emissions. Having already created a highly efficient, emissions-free sustainable cooling source, Cornell researchers are now exploring Earth Source Heat as a solution for heating the Upstate New York campus via direct-use geothermal energy—energy taken directly from hot water reservoirs deep in the earth.
A team of Cornell faculty and staff—comprised of Jefferson W. Tester, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering/Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, Teresa E. Jordan, Earth and Atmospheric Sciences, along with Steve Beyers and J. Olaf Gustafson from Cornell’s facilities engineering team—is producing a comprehensive feasibility study exploring ways to optimize and improve the economics of the geothermal system. This includes refining estimates of the potential resources beneath the campus, integrating local biomass sources and heat pumps for peak heating needs to reduce capital costs, and designing cascading systems that allow extracted heat to be utilized several times over for heating—followed by agricultural uses and snow melting or similar opportunities.
The study is also addressing the complexities of the economics of direct-use geothermal energy, considering not just the cost of heat but also the regional economic value of local energy production and the global costs of carbon-based emissions. This exploration may suggest ways in which the capital investment in deep geothermal may be shared by its beneficiaries. Furthermore, the study will set the stage for a future test well and demonstration project on Cornell’s Ithaca campus.