Forum to provide update on Earth Source Heat project

Cornell’s proposal to tap the Earth’s thermal energy to heat the Ithaca campus will be the focus of a virtual community forum, Jan. 19 at 6 p.m.

The virtual event is open to all members of the Cornell and surrounding communities; registration is required.

Since 2009, the Earth Source Heat (ESH) project has been part of the university’s Climate Action Plan to achieve carbon neutrality on the Ithaca campus by 2035.

The project seeks to extract the Earth’s heat by circulating water through a network of underground pores and crevices and raising the water temperature before returning it to the surface to heat most buildings on the Ithaca campus.

The next phase of the project involves drilling an approximately 2-mile-deep exploratory borehole on Cornell property to assess ESH’s feasibility.

In August 2020, the university secured a $7.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to drill the borehole and create a state-of-the-art observatory that will allow researchers at Cornell and other institutions to study the physical, geological and seismic characteristics of the subsurface beneath the campus.

Last year, a Cornell workshop brought together dozens of international scientists and engineers to design experiments that could be incorporated into the borehole, thanks to the significant research opportunity it presents.

In addition to helping Cornell reduce its carbon footprint, the project could demonstrate the effectiveness of geothermal heating for much of the northeastern United States and beyond.

The forum panelists will include:

  • Rick Burgess, vice president for facilities and campus services and co-chair of the Sustainable Cornell Council;
  • Terry Jordan, the J. Preston Levis Professor of Engineering;
  • Steve Beyers, the lead Earth Source Heat engineer with Facilities and Campus Services; and
  • Tony Ingraffea, the Dwight C. Baum Professor of Engineering Emeritus.

The forum and Q&A will be moderated by Joel Malina, vice president for university relations.

Media Contact

Abby Butler