Cornell and Iceland team to model geothermal energy

Iceland MOA
Ríkharður Ibsen, left, Jefferson Tester and Albert L. Albertsson sign the memorandum of agreement April 28, while Ambassador Robert Cushman Barber, back left, and Minister Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir witness it.

With an aim to create clean, renewable geothermal energy projects, and to cooperate in research and education, Cornell and Geothermal Resource Park (GRP) Iceland have signed a memorandum of agreement that mirrors the successful Icelandic model for integrating energy solutions.

GRP Ltd. facilitates that model within the Iceland Geothermal Cluster to promote clean energy globally.

The memorandum of agreement was signed April 28 in Reykjavik by Jefferson Tester, Cornell’s Croll Professor of Sustainable Energy Systems and director of the Cornell Energy Institute; Albert L. Albertsson, chairman of the Iceland Geothermal Cluster; and Ríkharður Ibsen, director of GRP. Ragnheiður Elín Árnadóttir, Iceland’s minister of industry and commerce, and U.S. Ambassador Robert Cushman Barber witnessed the agreement. Provost Michael I. Kotlikoff signed the memorandum, as acting president, in early April.

“Sustainability is more than just a concept in Icelandic society,” said Tester. “Sustainability has shaped the country and laid the groundwork for this flourishing nation. Iceland has a fiscal infrastructure that is unlike any other in the world. This island is a global leader with over 95 percent of its electricity and heating provided by renewable hydro and geothermal energy.”

One of the agreement’s key aims is to employ the Icelandic experience of integrating geothermal and hydro resources as a model to transform carbon-based U.S. energy into sustainably harnessed, green systems.

GRP will assist Cornell in designing a renewable energy park for possible deployment on the Cornell campus in Ithaca, with an eye toward transforming the campus into a zero carbon model for other campuses and communities.

“This is a vital step for Cornell’s Climate Action Plan and aligns with Cornell’s mission to promote sustainability by developing renewable approaches for supplying and using clean energy,” said Tester.

Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, president of Iceland, visited Cornell in 2014 for a series of meetings and gave a talk explaining his country’s clean energy economy. “It’s not really about energy, it’s about the economy,” said Grímsson. “It’s about the economic transformation of the country to realize that the move from fossil fuel over to clean energy is fundamentally good business – it’s fundamentally the road to prosperity and economic achievement.”

Iceland generates all of its electricity with renewable energy, and geothermal energy provides most of its hot water and heat. “Iceland’s renewable energy represents more than 85 percent of Iceland’s primary energy supply, in contrast to our global primary energy supply where about 80 percent is derived from fossil fuels,” said Tester. “The whole world should look to Iceland for lessons in sustainability and its effort to fulfill our social responsibility of going green.”

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John Carberry