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Hot Topic: Cornell Moves Toward Geothermal Heating

By District Energy posted 12-21-2022 09:34


The Cornell Review


Cornell is exploring using deep geothermal energy to heat Cornell’s campus through the creation of the Cornell University Borehole Observatory (CUBO). Located near Palm Road–which is by the Veterinary School–the two-mile deep observatory began drilling on June 21st, 2022, and finished months later on August 13th. The project’s launch is thanks to a $7.7 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy. It is considered a blueprint for further geothermal energy project applications across the U.S. and an important step towards Cornell’s commitment towards reaching carbon neutrality by 2035. 

Overseen by Facilities and Campus Services with the collaboration of university faculty, geothermal consultations and more, the drilling of CUBO reached 9,790 feet below the surface. CUBO’s will study the “temperature, permeability and other characteristics of the rock deep beneath the Ithaca campus.” Dean of Engineering and Co-Chair of Cornell’s Sustainable Campus Committee’s Lynden Archer expressed what specifically they hoped to find. “We needed to determine whether the heat output, permeability, and mechanics of the rock below Ithaca were conducive to creating an accessible reservoir of geothermal energy, a reservoir that could be used to provide a carbon-free source of baseload thermal energy to reliably heat the Ithaca campus.”

The preliminary data confirm the findings for the quality of geothermal resources in the range of 7,500 to 10,000 feet—rock temperatures being between 75 and 100 degrees Celsius and generally low permeability. Archer went on to say that the project could have important implications for “creating a new, scalable energy source capable of sustainably meeting complex heating needs in cold climate regions across the world”. 

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