It gets chilly up in Ithaca. Cornell University has put their Ivy-League smarts towards solving that problem with a geothermal heating program. The project, dubbed Earth Source Heat, will research geothermal technology and implement small scale testing over the next five years to heat a few buildings on campus.
Geothermal harvesting involves digging deep wells more than two miles down to access a heat reservoir. Water is piped through this deep well and circulated back up to the surface in order to generate heat.
Such practices are more common on the mountainous west coast, but have grown increasingly popular as a method of extracting energy that is comparatively less carbon-emitting (only emitting one-sixth of the carbon dioxide of a relatively clean natural gas power plant).
The process has drawn controversy for its similarity to oil drilling and hydraulic fracturing, and it may be accompanied by some of the same environmental risks.
While over twenty countries have adopted geothermal energy, the USA is the largest producer in the world. If this program is successful, the widespread East Coast adoption of geothermal heating would almost certainly change the heating and energy industries for both commercial and residential construction.
Scientists were once despondent that governments and schools were not investing in geothermal energy– now they can rest easy, because Cornell is literally picking up steam.