Uncertainty and Risk Mitigation Analysis

Although hundreds of thousands of people in Europe and China live in homes heated by a Deep Direct Source Geothermal system analogous to Cornell’s ESH system, the combined geology-engineering system needed for central New York is different. The differences begin with the uniqueness of the geology, which differs from one region to another. The geological factors near Ithaca are the ones that will determine, for Cornell ESH, the capital investment, engineering challenges, environmental benefits or risks, and safety.

For all locations there are a set of uncertainties and risks to be evaluated. At the heart of the matter, and one focus of research in 2018-2021, is the uncertainty whether a combination of natural and engineered means will be adequate to coax from the rocks the necessary amount of heat energy.

Yet even if research indicates that the energy supply is viable, the list of uncertainties is long. What will be the capital expenditures required to develop a deep direct use geothermal system? What are the anticipated environmental benefits, both global and local, as well as the risks? Will adoption of a new energy technology create jobs? Will the costs and benefits balance favorably even if there are no or few policy incentives? What is the potential to induce earthquakes strong enough to be felt at the surface, and strong enough to cause damage? How best can any risks – financial, environmental, safety — be minimized or mitigated? Research to investigate these questions and, thereby, to reduce the uncertainty and enable better-informed decisions, is ongoing in part. Research is anticipated to increase, broaden, and deepen, as better data become available