Our Mission

Cornell University is exploring geothermal heating as a sustainable method to warm its Ithaca campus. The project, titled Earth Source Heat, proposes to circulate initially cool water through subsurface reservoirs, where it will be naturally heated by the warmer temperature of the rocks. Earth Source Heat (ESH) includes a research collaboration between faculty, staff, and students across several science and engineering departments with the campus facilities staff.

ESH is a major component of Cornell University’s proposed solutions to achieve carbon neutrality by 2035. True to Cornell’s mission as a living laboratory, ESH, if successful, has the potential to create a renewable source of energy that could be deployed in many locations to efficiently meet heating challenges throughout New York State and other regions with relatively cold climates.

A simplified model of how geothermal heat will integrate into campus energy systems.
A simplified model of how geothermal heat will integrate into campus energy systems.


The value of successful development of ESH at Cornell goes beyond heating buildings with near-zero carbon energy. Whereas heating campus buildings will use water that is hotter than about 80°C (176°F), there are numerous beneficial uses of the energy that can be obtained from water in the range of 20 – 80+ °C (68-176 °F). This will allow a “cascaded use” approach, wherein higher temperature demands are met first with the geothermal fluid, followed by progressively cooler temperature demands. Those secondary uses include agriculture and food processing, as well as some manufacturing uses. Among these likely occur new business opportunities for the community beyond Cornell.

Research on ESH is continually evolving, as the project progresses through a phased approach. Present work focuses on identifying and modelling flow rates of sedimentary and crystalline basement reservoirs, characterizing the mechanical structure of the subsurface, updating existing infrastructure, and analyses of potential risks.

Follow the links to learn about our different research areas and milestones. Go to the Cornell University ESH pages for broader treatment of the motivation and stages of development of the heat production project.

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