The thermal energy contained in the earth’s crust represents a very large and underutilized resource that is accessible and extractable from depths ranging from 1 to 10 km using today’s technology and can be used in a variety of ways - for generating electricity, for heating buildings in district energy systems, or for both heat and power generation in co-generation systems. In addition, by utilizing shallow wells or trenches, as a heat source or sink, the efficiency of heat pumps for heating and cooling buildings is increased substantially -- typically by 300% or more over conventional air-to-air heat pumps.
At Cornell, our research is addressing several critical issues impacting the eventual success of deploying geothermal energy as a major energy resource. A multi-disciplinary team of faculty and students are working in six different research areas using a combination of experimental and theoretical approaches and computer simulation methods. The six areas are: 1. geothermal resource assessment, 2. advanced drilling methods, 3. geothermal reservoir characterization, stimulation and performance, 4. energy conversion and utilization, 5. ground source heat pump performance, and 6. techno-economic and life cycle analysis of geothermal systems. Of particular interest are characterizing geothermal resources, developing revolutionary methods of thermally and chemically assisted rock drilling, and understanding the performance and sustainability of deep Enhanced or Engineered Geothermal Systems (EGS) and shallow geothermal heat pumps.
One active project is the Geothermal Play Fairway Analysis of the northern Appalachian Basin and more projects can be found under the research sections of the individual faculty websites.
Faculty Involved: Rick Allmendinger, Larry Brown, Lawrence Cathles, Frank Horowitz, Teresa Jordan, Donald Koch, Rowena Lohman, Michal Moore, Matthew Pritchard, Jery Stedinger, Abe Stroock, Jeff Tester.