Cornell faculty and students deploy a network of 15 seismometers for a year-long assessment of background-level seismicity near campus.

Earth Source Heat is Cornell University’s version of an enhanced geothermal system that would use the Earth’s internal heat to warm its campus. The project is a research collaboration across several academic departments along with campus facilities staff, and is a major component of the university’s goal of achieving carbon neutrality.

True to Cornell’s longstanding tradition of using its campuses as “living laboratories,” Earth Source Heat, if successful, has the potential to demonstrate a new renewable source of energy that could be deployed to meet heating challenges in the region and across the world.

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Cornell faculty and students deploy a network of 15 seismometers for a year-long assessment of background-level seismicity near campus.

Cornell faculty and students deploy a network of 15 seismometers for a year-long assessment of background-level seismicity near campus.

“We have a lot better tools now [than in previous decades] — better drilling technology, much better geophysical logging capability, better seismic reflection imaging,” says Jeff Tester, a professor of sustainable energy systems and principal scientist for Cornell University’s Earth Source Heat project. “We know so much more about how to find permeability and fluids in the rock.” Drilling at that depth, avoiding pollution or seismic disruption, is something oil and gas has been working on for decades.—As published on VOX.com in the article The Earth itself could provide the carbon-free heat for buildings: The world needs clean heat, and geothermal energy has it.

Jeff Tester

Deep Geothermal Heat Research

Research on Earth Source Heat is continually evolving as the project progresses through a preparatory phase. Present work focuses on identifying and modeling flow rates of sedimentary and crystalline basement reservoirs, characterizing the mechanical structure of the subsurface and updating existing infrastructure. All of the data collected as part of the project is publicly available on Cornell’s Deep Geothermal Heat Research website.