Cornell University to heat the university with geothermal energy, drilling deep into the earth to warm the buildings on their campus in upstate New York.
Harvesting geothermal energy involves tapping into the earth's internal heat. This is a common practice in the western U.S. due to the abundance of mountains and volcanoes, but on the east coast, geothermal plants are more difficult to build and are thus rare.
Cornell's project, called Earth Source Heat, will research technologies for employing geothermal heat on Cornell's campus. The first phase of the project will span the next five years and will involve small-scale testing to heat a few campus buildings. The testing involves drilling a pair of wells that will reach down to a heat reservoir more than two miles below the surface. If these tests are successful, Cornell will expand the experiment to heat all the buildings on campus.
A success at Cornell could help to make geothermal energy more mainstream in the northeastern U.S. This region tends to have very cold winters, and relying more on geothermal energy for heating would dramatically cut carbon emissions. A survey by Cornell Engineering found that many areas of New York and Pennsylvania are highly conducive to the type of geothermal project that Cornell is researching.
Cornell hopes that their geothermal system, once fully implemented, will reduce the university's carbon emissions by almost 40 percent. In the future, it could also be used to heat residential homes, where it would drastically cut carbon emissions and save money.