JEFFERSON TESTER: I'm Jeff Tester. I'm the director of the Cornell Energy Institute. And I'm filling in for [? Hira, ?] who can't be here as the co-moderator of this panel. But I'll do my best here to first review a little bit about what the Einaudi Center is involved with. So it was established in 1961, 55 years ago or so. Houses area studies and thematic programs, organizes speaker series and conferences and events, and provides grants and other support to faculty and students. And brings together scholars from many disciplines to address complex international issues.
Some of you may remember that a year or so ago, we had the president of Iceland here, and he also gave an Einaudi presentation. So we're bringing in the additional ammunition that we need to kind of support the lessons that we've tried to learn from our interaction with Iceland. So the Einaudi Center identifies topics that lend themselves to multi-disciplinary collaborative work. This is certainly one of those areas, for sure.
The center is committed to creating an incubator space for experts across the university to work together on pressing global issues. It is especially interested in issues that are usually considered highly technical. There are certain aspects of that that we'll get into today, I'm sure, but where the stakes for ordinary citizens are high. And so connecting this to climate change and what Cornell is trying to do in its own way with respect to addressing carbon is clearly connected to this. And how we actually do it is an important issue that will affect not only sustainability, but energy security going forward.
So I'm going to first begin by giving a little bit of, hopefully, provocative opening here. And then I'll introduce Thorleikur Johannesson who is here from Iceland. He's a member of the engineering community, mechanical engineer. Started out in Denmark and then moved over to the University of Iceland, and has been working with a number of companies, most recently with Verkis, that does deployment and engineering of both power plants for geothermal use, as well as direct use for heating, and does this all over the world.
So not just in Iceland. So he'll have a lot of things to say, which I think you'll find interesting. We also have Kyu Whang here, who is in charge of our, I guess, all of the infrastructure at Cornell, if I've got this right, right?
KYU-JUNG WHANG: Most of it.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So when we want to get things done, we come to seek Kyu. And hopefully he'll have a lot of good things to say about what we're trying to do and how we might need everyone's help, including faculty, students, staff, and other members of the community. And then at the very end of the table is Todd Cowen who is the director for energy in the Atkinson Center. He's also a faculty member in civil and environmental engineering.
And everyone at this table has been to Iceland. Some people have been born and lived most of their life. But we've all seen what they've been able to do. And I think we're hopefully going to give you some ideas as to how this might go forward. So I'm going to try first by showing this first slide. Hopefully it'll work. This will be a little bit provocative here.
So interestingly enough, the use of geothermal for district heating was started in America in 1891, in Boise, Idaho. So if you want to just think of this, this is some of the original works that are associated with it. Some of the people in the room, I know some of the students have actually been there.
But it's sort of getting to be an old story that this was something we-- I don't know what that blue thing is up there, but maybe soon we can get rid of that. Can't? Oh, we just have to live with it? Part of our electronic life? OK.
An old story that a lot of things get invented for a variety of reasons. They don't necessarily get deployed on a massive scale. In fact, we've done very little in this area for well over a century. And now, maybe the opportunity, because of other reasons, concern about diminished supplies, the disruptions that might occur with changes in prices for fuel, and most importantly, climate change and its connection to CO2 emissions. So this clearly was perfected in Iceland. And you'll hear that in great detail from what Thorleikur has to say in a few moments.
And now, the third part of this is, where is it really being deployed? Well in addition to Europe that I'm sure he'll mention, and Africa, and places like that, China is the place now that is the leading deployer of district geothermal heating in some of its major cities from geothermal. And Iceland has had a strong partnership with them in the past 10 years or so. You can see it down in the lower left here, the China-Iceland partnership.
But they're actually doing it and deploying it. And clearly, they have issues with both local air pollution in their cities as well as with CO2 in the long run. So let me turn this over to Thorleikur at this point.
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: Thank you, thank you. Jeff, thank you for having me, for inviting me here over to give this presentation about mainly about Iceland district heating. But there are some other issues as well that Jeff asked me to mention.
Iceland, how many of you have been there? Wow, that's a lot. Actually, it's not that far from here. It is only 5 and 1/2 hour flight, same flying time as from New York to the west coast of the United States. So although it is in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, it is not that far.
And we like to talk about things per capita in Iceland, because we are only 330,000 people living there, while the country is 100,000 square kilometers. We have 3.2 persons per square kilometer. And think about that we have this year 1.6 million tourists. So we have five tourists per capita, and that's a lot.
The annual electricity use, we are very large in electricity. It's about 18 terawatt hours. That means 55 kilowatt hours per capita. If you compare to the United States, you have 1,000 times more people. Of course, the country is much larger.
I don't know the number of tourists who you have here, but to compare per capita, you are producing or consuming 12 kilowatt hour per capita. So we are actually very large when it comes to production of electricity. Just to tell you that, the primary use of energy in Iceland is about 750 gigajoules per capita, or 240 petajoules in total.
15% is imported, 85% from domestic renewable resources. 85%, and that is per capita, I think. Something of a world record, and we are very proud of it. Don't take notice of the text here below. It's how to calculate petajoule and those things.
In hydro, we are quite big, about 2,000 megawatts installed. And in geothermal, producing electricity from geothermal resources, about 660 megawatts. Normal capacity factor for the electricity [INAUDIBLE] capacity factor for geothermal is 90%. And actually, it should be a little bit higher than 90%, 96% is what we normally use.
But because of some decline in our geothermal field recently, the capacity factor is 90% when everything is counted. Wind, we are starting doing some wind because we have a lot of wind in Iceland and very little fuel. So you see that all the electricity in Iceland is produced from renewable energy sources.
And where does this energy go? 71% of what we produce is for the aluminum industry, a little bit for other industries as well. But the rest is maybe-- maybe 20% is for domestic use and the local industry. So we are very influenced by the situation on the aluminum market.
The price for electricity was-- there was a relation with the aluminum price. But recently, they have renegotiated, so we are not so dependent on aluminum price anymore, when it comes to the price of electricity. Talking about geothermal in Iceland, actually geothermal is everywhere in Iceland. And you know that Iceland, we have this rift going through the country. This is what we call the American plate and this is the European plate.
And Iceland is actually growing bigger every year, two centimeters every year. So I don't know when we will be big enough to change this per capita per square meters and those things. And you see the red dots are the high temperature areas, and the small black dots where we find low temperature water we use for district heating.
And this is the composition of the geothermal utilization. This is not the primary energy, so this blue here actually presents the megawatts of electricity installed. But 60% of the megawatts from geothermal is for space heating and some other direct use.
These are our power plants producing both hot water and electricity, but we will focus more on geothermal district heating in this lecture. So we'll move over to that. Here you have a picture of Iceland showing most of the district heating systems in Iceland, and they are all powered by geothermal. The biggest one is, of course, here in Reykjavik, the capital. But they are all over.
Actually, 90% of all houses in Iceland are entirely heated with geothermal energy. So we are only few small communities where we don't have access to geothermal, we get low price electricity mainly. Some heat pumps here and there, but geothermal is of course the largest source.
This is the same picture Jeff showed, but this was taken during wintertime from a church tower. We are standing on top of our Empire state building, on top of one hill in Reykjavik, and we are looking west here. This is a shopping street and you see there is snow on the ground here, but there is nothing here because all the streets in the center of Reykjavik are heated with geothermal.
We take the returned water-- when water has passed through the radiators, we collect it and we built a large heating system under the tarmac and the sidewalks to get rid of the snow. And this is a very, very good quality for the shop owner's, and also for the people who want to do shopping downtown. And this is taken in the middle of the winter, and you don't see any smoke coming from any houses from some local heating, or anything like that. Everything is heated with geothermal.
But it hasn't been like this for always, we should say. This is a picture taken, I think this is 90 years ago, and you see this thick smoke cloud over the town, or village as it was at that time. And the reason for this smoke cloud is, of course, at the time this was taken, maybe 80 90 years ago, and you see the smoke coming from the chimneys. We heated all our houses with coal.
And you see no snow melting in the streets. And we tried to avoid people getting hurt and the snow by using sand. And we also use salt, and so on. This is actually the downtown street in Reykjavik as it was 90 years ago.
Outside of Reykjavik, I would say three kilometers east from the center of Reykjavik, we had those hot springs. And actually, when the first settler came to Iceland, he saw the steam coming up from the hot spring and he called this city the Steam City. "Reykja," means actually smoke or steam. He thought it was a smoke, but it was vapor or steam coming from those hot springs.
The women had to carry the man's clothes from the city some three kilometers here to the west, maybe once or twice a week. And they washed the clothes here in those springs. And they were called the laundry spring of Reykjavik.
The location is here. This is Reykjavik, and you can see the size. This is 10 kilometers, so it is about 10 times 15 kilometers if you are thinking about the size of the area. So the laundry springs were here, and this is the center here. And in the first system, we piped water from those laundry springs down to the center.
A few milestones about the development, it was actually in 1908, so 20 years after the United States, there was a farmer 15 kilometers outside of Reykjavik who piped geothermal water from his hot spring into his house and heated it. In 1930, actually the district heating system in Reykjavik started to develop, when we drilled 14 shallow wells, free-flowing water, collected it to a [INAUDIBLE]. We pumped it into a pipe, and we heated a school, and a swimming pool, and some 60, 70 houses.
In 1943, during the Second World War, we took into service what we call the Reykjavator, a district heating [INAUDIBLE]. Actually, the water was coming from a place called Reykir, and we called it the Reykjavator. Actually "vator" means distribution of water. We have a lot of funny words in Iceland, I'm sorry about that.
We drilled some shallow wells. We were able to get 200 liters per second of 86 degrees hot water. We built a 17 kilometer long pipeline-- during the World War II, think about that-- from Reykir to Reykjavik, and then we were able to heat some 3,000 houses. In 1958, there was another milestone, because then the Icelandic government bought a new drill rig, a steam-driven drill rig. And also in the coming years, we managed to find out how to operate deep well pumps and how to design them.
In 1970, all houses were heated with geothermal energy. And the system expanded to the suburbs, mainly because the driven force, of course, in that time was also the oil crisis, as you about. In 1990, the low temperature fields couldn't provide enough water, so we built this combined heat and power plant in Nesjavellir. It was taken into service in 1990.
In 2005, we took on another combined heat and power. And when I say combined heat and power, we were producing electricity and hot water from geothermal resources. And now, 2016, the system is fully developed and it is serving some 200,000 people. We didn't have these fancy drill rigs back then. This is a picture taken somewhere, I think when they were drilling the first wells where the laundry spring are.
So this is-- I think most of it is homemade, but that is a quite funny picture. And I only think they could drill some 10, 20 meters with this rig. This is the school first heated with geothermal and distilled there. Actually heated the same way, I think it has mostly the same radiators as were installed at that time.
So a little bit about the development. It started very slowly. Now you can maybe re-recognize this picture. Here is Reykjavik.
This is about 15 kilometers distance. This is where the farmer piped his thermal spring water into his house. And here you see the first development of district heating in Reykjavik, the swimming pool, the school, and so on. These are the suburbs, not belonging to the city itself. But later, the system, of course, expanded to the suburbs, as well as I am going to show you.
We have always had the politicians on our side. This is from the morning paper, a morning newspaper from 1938. Vote for the district heating today. Don't listen to the others. You know, there were a lot of people saying it was impossible to transport. At that time, they were going to transport the water 15 kilometers.
They were saying, it is impossible. But the C party, the conservative party of Reykjavik, they decided to go for this district heating, to listen to the engineers. And you see, they even printed this in two colors. This is the black, and this is the blue one, which is showing much nicer sky, and so on. And it worked.
So in 1939, after this election, to 1944, the size of the district heating system increased. We built this pipeline from this place here all the way to the city. So this is just a picture of this pipeline. Two 14 inch pipes, we imported them from the United States.
Think about getting steel pipes during the World War. It was difficult. We even lost the first shipment of pipe, I won't mention the reason.
But we put it in a concrete channel, we insulated with Icelandic turf, and we covered it with concrete cover. 15 kilometers long. It was a huge project for Iceland at that time. The system was very simple. Shallow well free flowing into a tank, where we got rid of some of the gases, and so on.
We pumped it through our storage tanks. There are many hills Reykjavik. We have one hill very close to the center, about 60, 70 meters above sea level. And we pumped the water.
And then there was sometimes an assistant pumping during the coldest day, but mainly free flowing water to the houses and through radiators, and then to the drain. Because the geothermal reservoir was one of a kind, you know, because we can actually harness. And that way we don't have to re-inject into them.
And you see, the tap water was just hot water. The quality of the low temperature water is very good, so we can even almost drink it if you especially like a little the smell of H2S. But that doesn't matter, as long as you don't drink too much.
So this is the place where we got the water. Here is the head of the pump. This is in Reykir. We have a backup diesel generator if the power fails.
We have this de-aerator tank where we collect the water. And I know this picture was taken maybe a little bit before 1944, because we still have the Danish flag here. And you know, Iceland was actually a Danish colony, and we got our independency in 1944. We took the chance during the World War II when Denmark was occupied by the Germans and we had the Americans to assist us. So that was an opportunity you only get once, and we took it.
So the district heating development went on. And it was rather slowly in the coming years, because we didn't know how to drill deeper wells. And we didn't know how to pump from them. And so we had a lot of problems.
But in 1958, we got this steam drill rig. And in the decade from 1962, we managed actually to finish heating-- or construct the district heating for the entire city of Reykjavik. And it was because the government of Iceland, the politicians, they bought this drill for us. And actually, we managed to master the deep well pump, where there used to be open line shaft pump.
But now we found out that we could use Teflon instead of copper bearings. Copper and H2S, they are enemies. They don't like each other.
So we found out that Teflon was the material to put on the bearings, and we lubricated them with water. No oil, because we cannot actually lubricate with oil because our water is going directly through the houses into the sea, and I don't think we were able at that time to find a way to actually capture the oil from the water after. Because when you put lubricating material into this well bearing, it actually goes into the water.
So in 1973 to '77 these developments went on to all the suburbs as well. And of course, one of the driving issues was here that there was this oil crisis. But it was also a long term vision by the managers of the district heating system.
They actually knew that there would come time here in 1977, and you see that the development was rather slow after that, because actually we had at the time fully utilized the geothermal resources within the city and the low temperature resources. So then we built this-- and actually the guys who were running the system, they knew that there were plenty of heat sources just outside of Reykjavik, 20, 30 kilometers outside of Reykjavik. And they knew that they would be able to fix this, even if they draw-down off the reservoir low temperature reservoirs was severe at that time.
So we built this power plant 30 kilometers east of Reykjavik, combined heat and power plant. We started only with the heat production. We constructed 27, or something, kilometer long pipeline 900 millimeters in diameter. And we heated freshwater because we couldn't use the geothermal fluid then directly, because it is contaminated with some [INAUDIBLE] minerals, and so on.
We heated freshwater, we de-aerated it. We put a little H2S in it to keep the smell-- no, not to keep the smell but to prevent the rust of or corrosion of the pipes, because H2S is a very good-- it actually eats all the rest if some oxygen gets in. But that's another story. I am not a chemical engineer.
So in the years [? 2008 ?] to 2016, we used water from Nesjavellir. And we increased the size of the system. And now the system covers all Reykjavik and the suburbs. Street by street, house by house, we did this. And actually, some of the young people here in Iceland, and maybe me as well, we take this for granted. But it hasn't been like this always. It took us actually 90 something years to get where we are.
So this is a photo showing the city. It's taken to the north, now Reykjavik's here. This is one of the suburbs. I only show this picture because I live in this house, but this is another story.
This is a nice village outside of Reykjavik. Actually, the mayor of this town went to America to find out how to design streets with the sidewalks, grass, and so on. So it is very green, and [NON-ENGLISH] means actually green place, so to speak. Or a yard, or something like that.
So this is where actually the Reykjavik district heating is getting its water from. We have some 125 megawatts from the laundry spring area. There is a small area here in a valley we get some 50 megawatts.
Reykir and Reykjavik, where the farmer started is now giving us 375 megawatts. Nesjavellir, 25 kilometers to the east, is giving us some 300 megawatts. And Hellisheidi, our new combined heat and power plant, is giving us 150 megawatts of heat.
So why did we succeed? We have high grade, high permeable-- the open hydrothermal reservoirs. They are relatively easy to use if you know how to do it. We didn't know at the time how to do it, but we know it now.
High quality, low temperature geothermal water, used directly on the district heating system, and directly to radiators and almost drinkable. No re-injection needed for the low temperature areas, as you keep the inflow into the reservoir same as the outflow for the [INAUDIBLE]. High capacity factor is also important for the pricing of the hot water. 50%, it is about 27%, 28% here. This is giving us a good economy for running geothermal district heating like this.
Correctly designed end user system. Large radiators is a key factor to squeeze as many degrees out of the hot water as possible before you either re-inject it or you throw it away. Correctly selected metering and them tariff system. Metering system is important.
We sell all our water with flow meter only. We don't use heat meters, because we give the consumers the water by measuring the flow rate of the water in cubic meters. And so it is up to them to squeeze as many degrees out of the water as possible before they even return it or throw it away.
And therefore, it is actually free of charge to have snow melting systems in our driveways, and so on. And finally, the politics. The politicians in Iceland have-- most of them-- have been pro-geothermal utilization. And we think that is very, very important to have the politics on our side. I mean hearing about these things can't be done, and these are not things you should listen to.
But to have the politicians from the beginning, like we did in '38 with the Conservative party at that time has been very, very good for us. So, thank you. I hope I didn't use more than 20 minutes. Thank you very much.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So, thank you. And I think you can understand why some of us are very envious of what Iceland has been able to do. And I want to make one quick transition before I have Kyu and Todd come up, to give you the story as to why we think, as we're calling it Earth source heat, which is sort of our version of geothermal, might actually work for Cornell.
So first of all, I want to thank you and thank Iceland for what it's been able to do. Clearly, this was a long term commitment. It involved, as you said, house by house, street by street, and community by community. And we hope that that would not only represent, if we do this experiment here at Cornell and are able to succeed in going to zero carbon, that it would be a model for other parts of the country as well.
So I just want to say a couple of words. And they'll be very few, because we need to get on with this discussion. But what is the context and motivation that we're looking at? It's not just about Cornell, for sure. It has a lot to do with the country's use of thermal energy.
And what are the attractive features of this? You've heard a lot from what Thorleikur has to say. And why hasn't it gone faster in the US?
After all, we invented this idea a long time ago. And we had many other options, as most of you know. So it wasn't necessary. It wasn't the economic and sustainability necessity that Iceland has in the beginning, because they had no other fossil resources onsite.
So they had to do something. And obviously, it's worked quite well for them. And then a question that I hope we can all talk about is not only what will be needed to make a real difference for geothermal in the US? Almost all the development in the US now has been in the western part of the country, primarily for electricity.
There's very few exceptions to that. The Boise exception is one, and it's been quite successful. Actually, the US is the largest producer of geothermal electricity in the world. So it's not an unknown to us at all, but it's limited to about four states, perhaps a little bit moving out from that condition. But it's largely viewed, I think, by many.
So certain people in the room, we have Susan Petty here from AltaRock. She knows this story well, that it creates sort of a competition between what we're trying to do with low temperature geothermal in, say, the eastern parts of the country, and what the hydrothermal higher grade people are doing with electricity. They all need help.
But just to make sure that we're all on the same page here, this is a graph that we put together based on data taken over many years in the US on where energy is actually used in different sectors. And this points out that we have this amount of energy-- this is in exajoules, or quads if you like that unit. So to put this in context, there's about 100 quads of primary energy consumed in the country per year for our 320 million people, or so.
And of that, a good fraction of it is supplied at actual utilization temperatures at or below the temperature of boiling water. And we do most of that, as many of you know if you've thought about where the heat comes into your house and how you heat hot water, from basically burning natural gas, or fuel oil, or in a number of instances today, propane, and supplying that energy at high temperature in a combustion-based system. And then driving it right down to room temperature or to the temperature of heated water in your water tank.
So this is about 25% or so of that primary energy demand. And it's almost absent from the dialogue today when you hear about America's transition to a renewable energy future. They'll talk about transportation fuels, for sure. That's a big piece of this.
And they'll talk about electricity. But almost never have I heard the discussion of how we're going to heat our homes, and businesses, and commercial buildings, municipal buildings as we go forward. It can't all be done just with improving efficiency. Ultimately, you're going to have to address this.
So we think that geothermal might provide a way to do this. But usually, when you look at a diagram, this is a very crude representation. It's a sort of qualitative representation of different types of resources.
So we have permeability here. You heard Thorleikur talking about that. And porosity that would maybe be representative of how much fluid was actually contained in the reservoirs that we be trying to extract energy from. And so you look further at this, and you look at the gradient as maybe one index, one metric of the quality of a system in terms of its resource grade.
So the higher the gradient, the better it is. So you immediately put Iceland over here. You'd put other areas of the Western US in this location, too. Parts of New Zealand, Larderello, Italy, and other locations like that, particularly in the Asia-Pacific area, where we're near tectonic plate boundaries similar to what Iceland is.
But if we look at New York and a lot of the east, you put it up here in the upper left hand corner. And usually, you walk away from this diagram saying you can't do it here. Well, what it takes is a different kind of technology, because we probably are going to have to live with lower permeability and lower porosity.
So we'll invoke some way in which we might be able to emulate the characteristics of these very high-grade systems where nature's provided all these ingredients. This brings in the so-called enhanced geothermal, engineered geothermal, or as we're viewing it, sort of an Earth source heat, view of this. Still at the same temperatures that we're talking about in a district heating system, but we'd obviously have to go deeper than you would in Iceland.
And one way of looking at this is just to kind of look at a US map at different depths horizons. This was collaborative work we did with SMU. A number of people in the room have been involved with that. But it has to do with a lot of additional data that came in in our region over here.
So this is the temperature that you'd anticipate at five and a half kilometers of depth, over 15,000 feet or so deep in the Earth. And this region here is in the Appalachian basin. And there were a lot of holes that have been drilled in this for oil and gas production. And they actually provided a lot of the basic data of bottomhole temperature, and also information about heat flow and the like that we could build this map that's now based on the eastern horizon here in the Appalachian, at over 7,000 or so wells.
So we're pretty confident that this is a huge region, and a region, obviously, where there's a fair amount of heat load in the northern tier parts of the country as well. So we don't have to rely just on these massive hydrothermal regions that we have in the west for producing just electric power. We can look at the east as well.
And so we did this. This is a very complicated slide, but it gives you a sense of where this all might go. And this is the last one. But if we looked at Pennsylvania and New York, part of that database that we've been working with and tried to envision what it would be like if we actually deployed geothermal district heating in much the same way that Iceland did.
This is a bigger population, for sure, but it's still the same kind of idea. The size of these circles represents where population is and where the demand would be. And for those of you that are familiar with New York, this is Albany here. This is interstate 90,
It goes along the New York Thruway. So you can just pick off the cities Albany, Schenectady, Utica, Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, and down here Binghamton. Those are part of the so-called rust to green initiative that the state is putting together.
So it might even provide an opportunity for going to change the infrastructure, as well as provide a heating system that could be much more sustainable. And so what we did was superimpose on top of that the quality of the resource and other aspects of this, whether we could have permeability. Whether we would have confidence in the economics of this and what the demand was like. So all of that scales to the different colors that are involved.
And as you can see, these are pretty big numbers. But if we look at what domestic-- this is in Dollars per million BTUs, what you pay as a domestic resident, they're not that different from what we're paying right now, even with these low natural gas prices. So I'd like to finish by leaving this slide here. This is-- we'll come back to this in the questions.
And there's questions you might have, based on what we've said and what Thorleikur has said. So this will be good for the discussion later. So this is sort of a conceptual picture of Cornell and what it might look like if it really was able to deploy an Earth source heat system, coupled to the other things it's doing in the renewable area, including wind, solar, lake source cooling that was implemented many years ago. And also higher efficiency of its own building structure.
This includes a biomass gasifier. Or you could view it as a biomass combustor that might be a peaking sort of concept. But the geothermal system is shown here, and I'm going to let Kyu talk a little bit about where we are with this with respect to the university's commitment to climate action and how this all fits together in a very integrated kind of experiment.
So it's different than Iceland, for sure. We have different resources here. There are many trees in Iceland at this point, so there are certainly biomass opportunities. The lake provides a huge resource to us, as well. But there's solar and, wind which you're taking advantage of wind. So I think it's an interesting case.
KYU-JUNG WHANG: So, thank you all. Probably of these distinguished gentlemen here, I'm probably the least technical of all, not being an engineer and really a latecomer to the conversation around geothermal. So I'm glad Jeff put that picture up.
That's the ideal campus that we think about, as we work towards teaching climate neutrality. You recall we-- the university signed up pledge to attain climate neutrality by the year 2050. This was back in 2009 that President Skorton actually signed a commitment. .
And this conversation around Earth source heat is not something we just started talking about. In fact, if you look at that original climate action plan, geothermal or earth source heat, or at the time called it geothermal was a main, major component of that plan. And we've been working on this. And recently, there's been a lot of action to accelerate the climate action plan by 15 years.
And we have now identified the year 2035 as a target date for us reaching our climate neutrality. So why are we talking about geothermal when we looked at that slide that Jeff showed, we're at the upper left hand corner, the most inhospitable place for potentially using geothermal energy. I think there are a couple reasons.
One is, we really don't have a whole lot of options for heating campus. Heating the campus here in this climate is as you all know, is a primary focus. And so how we get there, how we provide heat is one of our biggest challenges.
And of course, we have resources. We have resources, people like Jeff, and people like Todd that you'll be hearing from, and so many other faculty members. So this is an opportunity for Cornell to actually look into this. And so when we recently published a document called "The Options for Achieving a carbon neutral campus by 2035.
This was a document that was asked of us from our new provost. And Lance Collin, the dean of engineering, myself, we co-chaired a committee. So many people were involved in the writing of that report who are here today. Steve Byers who was actually the project manager is right over here. Bert Bland led the entire process.
And I wonder if Sarah's here now. But Sarah, I just need to give Sarah Zemanick a shout out because she was really a major part of putting this report together. But this report identifies Earth source heat as one of six options for reaching carbon neutrality.
And I think it's pretty obvious that each one of those six options carry a tremendous cost, a capital cost, operating cost, to achieve climate neutrality. I mean, to the point where it's virtually impossible for the university in its current state, in its business usual state, that we might even be able to achieve climate neutrality, because doing so under the current scenario would require not doing anything else but climate action, which I don't think is in the best interests of the university. So we looked at Earth source heat as a potential for providing heat to campus.
In fact, one of the things that we did as part of the report was actually put together cost estimates for each of the options. And if Earth source heat were to be successful, it will ultimately become the cheapest of the six options, even cheaper than what we identified as business as usual, which is actually continuing on buying fossil fuel, high pressure gas to heat our campus. So there's a tremendous opportunity here as a result of that.
One of the reasons why we believe that this could be the cheapest option is because it is the only option of the six that we know of that has the potential for external funding, external collaboration, partnering, and building a coalition, similar to a lot of what we're currently working on right now. And so a whole bunch of us visited Iceland last October. It was a little over a year ago.
And we were able to see what tremendous work the Icelandic people have done to actually heat the entire country. I know it's not a big country, but to think that you can heat an entire nation using geothermal energy, that's sort of mind boggling for me. So that's why we came back really energized.
We thought that this is an option that is really worth pursuing. There are still a lot of unknowns about this. We're not kidding ourselves that this is not a silver bullet.
There's no guarantee that this will actually work here in upstate New York. A lot of questions. Does our geological formation support this effort? I know there are pretty maps, but until you actually go down there and drill, you don't really know what's down there.
Do we have to write temperature? Or do we have-- and what about the public perception around drilling? There's a lot of sensitivity to that, right? And I dare not use the F word, not the F word that you're thinking of, but it is the F word. And we don't want to use that word.
There's issues around permitting. There's lots of different environmental issues around drilling. So disruption to campus. One of the strengths of Cornell, as the VP of infrastructure, Properties and Planning is maintaining a beautiful campus. A tranquil, beautiful setting in a rural upstate New York town.
And what would drilling, and ultimately having a heating plant nearby, what would that do to the physical nature of Cornell? And these are all things that we have to think about. And there are traffic noise waste associated with drilling. And we have to be mindful of that.
And most importantly, how do we pay for it? And I think I've already said that the university currently does not have the means to pay for this in its full cost. So it's going to be a lengthy process, and we're only going to get there by taking this incremental approach.
We have these things called stage gates set through the entire process. Right now, we're going into the feasibility phase of this project, and we will not proceed to the next phase until we know that we have some of these questions that might be answered. So we're starting our process now. We use the term "living laboratory" a lot here at Cornell.
In fact, to me, it's an overly used word. In fact, just about every campus in the US is now using that term, living laboratory. But you know what, the difference is that here we really mean it. And I'm serious, we really do mean it when we say it's a living laboratory. You're not going to find too many universities with facilities organization who are so closely intertwined with the research that's going on around so many different [? science. ?]
And I really do take pride in the fact that we have that collaboration with our faculty. And that they see us as partners in this endeavor. It's not just those facilities guys over there doing what they're doing. So I'm really proud of that. And we do actually support the research initiative of our faculty, not only in air source heat, but in so many other technologies. Solar, wind, we talked about wind, we have research going on.
And we use our campus. We use our campus. We allow our faculty to use our campus to do their research. And so we're really proud of that. So let me just say finish by saying that our work is really just beginning. This is really still a research initiative. This is not a facilities project. I want to emphasize that.
This is still a research initiative. And IPP, our Infrastructure, Properties and Planning, we're here to support our faculty perform their research. And our goal. Our hope, is that we do get to a point where this technology could actually be implemented here in Ithaca, New York on the Cornell campus.
And the one thing that I learned today from Thorleikur, and that's really exciting as a guy who's managing this campus, I want to put geothermal down all our streets and sidewalks, so we don't ever have to plow the damn roads again. We're going to do that, Burt. That's going to be part of the plan.
OK, no salt, no sand. It's going to be terrific. So, thank you.
JEFFERSON TESTER: I want to make sure we have enough time, Todd. So you're the last speaker.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: I'm being cautioned to be brief. I'll be quite brief, since luckily Kyu hit on many of the points that I wanted to make, which I think speaks to the central point that I'll start with. He is underselling facilities at Cornell.
It is truly unique to be in a relationship with a group that is on the infrastructure side of a campus that lets it play as your living laboratory. And while I've traveled many campuses and heard a few talk to a living laboratory, as someone who's been involved since 1989 in lake source cooling-- lower left of the picture up above, which is by the way Earth source heat upside down, or inside out, however you want to think about it-- it only can happen because this is a facilities group that is forward looking, that has always been motivated by sustainable solutions in central New York to protect many of the qualities, whether it be the incredible water resources we have, and now thinking about how to move off of fossil fuels and protecting our air and our climate. Having them as a partner that has allowed things to happen on this campus continues to.
So don't undersell yourself, Kyu. And you didn't undersell your team. Your team is amazing.
What I'll talk to you a little bit is about some of the points that Kyu touched on as we move forward, going forward. And I think one of the key pieces, and a role that I sort of try to play in my capacity at the Atkinson Center is that, while you're sitting up here with a bunch of engineers and architects from the more technical side, the problem here-- this one's a little bit more, there are some technical fundamentals. We don't quite know what we're going to find when we go down three kilometers, four kilometers, five kilometers.
And we've got an Earth scientist, geophysicist, and a variety of people are going to involved in understanding what does that look like. So there are some real technical hurdles. I don't want to undersell them.
But the reality is-- Susan Petty's been pointing out-- we have people that are building businesses on these technologies already. They're surmountable. The greatest challenge we're going to face is really one of the traditional challenges we always see in energy transformations. And that is, A, engaging our community to believe this is the right way to go. And B, engaging our community so we understand how not to be NIMBYistic, if that's a word.
We have a challenge as we face transitions, where we look and say, I don't want a wind farm because that affects my view shed. Or I'm worried about what that does. What people don't think about-- and the dean of engineering, Lance Collins, has been very good about couching questions this way lately-- is by doing nothing, you're not making a decision to do nothing. You're making a decision to do the status quo.
So Kyu talked about business as usual as an operating cost for campus. We still consume fossil fuels. If we don't build this facility, we will continue to consume fossil fuels. They have a strong component of methane, in particular and the combined heat power plant right now, a fantastic transitional use in this case. And I'm one who has struggles with talking about methane as a bridge fuel.
But Cornell has used it in a truly bridge fuel way, where we've gone from a capacity factor in the 30%, 35%, Lanny, up to about 65%, 70% now. So twice as much energy out of the same fuel, fuel with a lower carbon footprint as you burn it. The challenge is, as many of you are aware, methane has a serious climate impact in and of itself. In fact, on a much grander scale than carbon dioxide, luckily on a shorter temporal scale.
And the extractive technologies used for it are quite leaky. Gases are kind of hard to see and detect, so we tend to leak them and not worry about them as much. And in fact, there's been a lot of work on this campus done around that.
So we have really strong reasons to believe that moving off methane is important. And so if we're going to think about taking on a new technology, it's not just because we're taking on a new technology. Doing nothing means continuing to burn methane and rely on what is right now a leaky infrastructure that is getting tighter. But even at its tightest, we'll still have a carbon footprint.
So it is not a long term solution, and the goal is to get as rapidly off it as possible. And in fact, again sort of the campus's, I think, excitement, which is an exciting place to be, we just commissioned the combined heat and cycle power plant in 2005? '10.
So it's five years old. We're already talking about decommissioning it. That's kind of impressive. That's an energy utility scale plant hundreds of millions of-- $100 million, somewhere in there, that we're already talking about taking down five years after building it. So that speaks, I think, to an administration that is ready to really think in a serious way about what it takes to move forward and is committed to finding solutions.
And I think we've got a campus now that we're in the process of engaging thinking across all aspects, all academic units, the social sciences, the economists, the business school. You think about lab of Ornithology, an incredible group at understanding how to engage the public in problems and think about environmental impacts. So the breadth of campus from its academic side to the undergraduate student body that is actually utilizing the majority of the resources, in terms of being the biggest population that uses the hot water resource here, how do we engage people in thinking about shifting our local climates and perhaps reducing demand? Thinking about being ready for the disruptions Kyu talked about as we transition to all the behavioral changes that need to happen for the climate action plan to be achieved by 2035.
So I'm excited to be here and think about what that process is. Today, we're specifically focused on resource heat. But in general, all of those challenges have come to campus. There's no better place to be, I think, to lead the country into these spaces.
And having partners like Thorleikur in Iceland is the way we're going to get there. And the Atkinson Center is very committed to partnering extortionately to try to figure out how to take what we learn in this living laboratory and the research halls, and then get it in the hands of those that are installing, selling, changing policy-- which was also touched on early today. We're going to have to deal with policy aspects of this to make it happen on state, national, and international scales. I'll stop there.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Just to be clear that we are really talking about leadership, not just at Cornell, but also beyond that. And I think that you have to somewhere. And this would be an ideal place to start, in our view, to kind of make the country aware of its roots from far along ago that we can actually do it differently now, and do it better, and do it safer. And I think that it's unique to be able to have a campus like this, where we can do it with this kind of cooperation.
It certainly was what brought me back to Cornell for many years, as many of you know. And so let's open it up to questions and discussion at this point. And I'm sure there are plenty out there. So who is the brave one that will start?
Just wondering if you have any research grants in mind that you're pursuing now for this initial phase, [INAUDIBLE].
JEFFERSON TESTER: So again, we are living in an environment where the situation in Washington is still in a state of flux with respect to the agency that would most likely fund some of this, both on a basic research side, as well as an applied research side would be the Department of Energy through its energy efficiency and renewable energy division. And we have had some grants. We have some now that actually are providing underpinning research that have to do with characterizing reservoirs and things of that sort.
But the bigger one that we would like to be competitive in hasn't really been issued lately. And it has to do with a funding opportunity announcement, as they call it, that should be coming out and would look specifically at direct use in the country. All of the others that have been funded so far have been primarily around higher temperature systems for electricity. So this could be a terrific opportunity for us, probably working with our other partners.
We have quite a bit of collaboration with folks at West Virginia. You remember from the map, they're sitting in another sort of even higher grade area in terms of what we have here in Ithaca. So I'm optimistic about that.
There are other features which should be very attractive to other potential funders, particularly NYSERDA , the New York state Energy Research and Development Authority. And they had historically been involved in geothermal, as some people in this room may remember, back in the late '70s and sort of got out of that business. They're doing a remarkable job with deploying solar and helping wind, but very little, if anything, right now in this area. So it would give them an opportunity to kind of come back to where they started long ago.
And so we're certainly talking actively to them. And I think if there was a large opportunity with, say, the state and federal things, other companies and partners would want to join. But I think it really has to be a team. It can't be done by any single entity anymore, particularly beyond this sort of early stage that we're in now. I'm not sure I'm answering at all, but.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: But I mean, the take-home point would be, those conversations are well underway. And there's a multi-pronged plan about how we bring this funding consortium together.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So let's start with Frances back there.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] Thorleikur mentioned that the Icelandic geothermal system has a 50% capacity factor--
JEFFERSON TESTER: For the heating cycle.
AUDIENCE: For the heating?
JEFFERSON TESTER: Heating cycle.
AUDIENCE: OK. But that compares to 27% in the US, so how has Iceland achieved that, because that might be an important lesson.
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: Just because of the climate. I know that the average temperature is 5 degrees, the highest temperature is 10, and the lowest is minus 5, or something. So that is why we are having such a high capacity factor.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So it's an interesting point, though, that if we compare-- you were comparing aspects of Iceland with the US. But if we go a little further and compare degree days, heating degree days in Reykjavik versus heating degree days in Ithaca, Reykjavik's a little bigger, but the curve is fundamentally different. As my student from Iceland reminds me, it's always cold in Iceland.
So they have a huge base load. We have several months of the year where we have no heating. They never have that, OK? So that's when we're using lake source cooling. So that's the reason why we're thinking about this peaker, as you can imagine. So you don't want to design for this high capacity factor.
The other feature that was on some of my slides, but I don't think we've talked about yet is this also can be integrated into industrial uses as well, that use low grade heat. We have a terrific yogurt business for instance, in New York. They use a lot of heat in both directions, heating and cooling. And certainly, that would be an opportunity.
We've been working also with the Saranac Brewery and other people that have a need for low grade heat. So it could raise the capacity factor, Francis, above that sort of average for the country. Great question. OK, there was someone over here? Yeah, anywhere. We have Tim and Lori. Maybe I'll start with Lori will go first.
LORI: This might be a premature question, but I'm wondering if this has been discussed with any of the trustees?
JEFFERSON TESTER: You could comment on that, Kyu, right? There was a presentation. Yeah, we did make a presentation. Part of it was sort of I think the brief introduction of the whole Atkinson Center, to start with.
And then we went into Earth source heat and talked about the renewable idea of integration of renewables. And there was-- I mean, maybe I'm perpetually optimistic in this area, but I'd say there was a lot of enthusiasm. Kyu, you were there.
KYU-JUNG WHANG: We own that piece of [INAUDIBLE]?
JEFFERSON TESTER: Yeah.
KYU-JUNG WHANG: Yeah. So this was actually presented to, not the full board of trustees, but to the building and properties committee. And it was very well received. And there was a lot of excitement.
In fact, many of them actually came up-- many of them actually came and talked to us about it after the-- either after the meeting or days after the meeting about how excited they were about just this possibility. And some even are thinking about philanthropic reasons for asking. But I think most of it is because they view this as a technology that Cornell could be a leader in, at least in this part of the world. And that kind of elevates our stature. And so I haven't heard anyone say that they don't support it, or that they think that this is not going to work. So I'm really, really excited about the reaction we got from them.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So Tim, let's move over to the of economists on this side.
TIM: I have a question for Thorleikur. I'm interested in what makes the aluminum industry viable. You know, normally this is done where you have a big dam and you've just got so much power to throw away. So clearly, it's tough to get. And you must feel that you're competitive in the world market. And what makes it practical from an economic point of view?
JEFFERSON TESTER: Everybody heard that. This is all about, how did they get to the state they are with being this huge energy consumer with [INAUDIBLE] bauxite, refining it, very energy intensive. Does that make it fit an economic piece of [INAUDIBLE] history?
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: Yeah. There is a debate going on in Iceland about this. I mean, this started all in 1968, or something like that, when we build the first big hydro to power a small aluminum plant in Reykjavik, and transported the energy from that site. And the first aluminum plants, the price of the electricity was related to the aluminum price.
And it was-- well, the economy from this, at least the national power company who takes care of this has the big plants. They are not-- many people think they are not getting enough money from the electricity they sell to the aluminum plants. But in this case-- but we got it started.
We got it started. And then we got small revenues, we should say. But now, after those years we are now renegotiating with the plants. We are getting higher prices for our electricity, and sometimes killing them. They complained.
I met one of my colleague-- or students. He's one of the chief CEO of one of the plants when I was coming here. And he was saying, they are always trying to get higher and higher prices for the electricity and the aluminum price is low.
So we actually predict that we will get quite some substantial amount of revenue in the coming years. And we are actually starting to compare this with the oil fountain in Norway, you know compared by capita, of course. But we have, of course, huge [? dams. ?]
We have 690 megawatts power plant in the east of Iceland serving Alcoa. A new big plant has been there for 10 years. It is a huge-- it's the biggest Earth made dam in the world, I think, or was at that time.
AUDIENCE: What's the price difference for electric power to the [INAUDIBLE]?
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: The smelters are paying some-- what it is-- $20, $30 US Dollars per megawatt hour. Would that make sense, yeah? 2 to 3 cents. And they're still-- the power company is making money. Not enough, but--
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] residential customers.
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: When we talk about everything what we pay, taxes, and transportation, and something like that, maybe $120 per megawatt hour. We could look at this up on the Web, you know.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] this is-- I'm very new to the topic, although I've been around Cornell for a few years [INAUDIBLE]. At the time, my background is in resources [INAUDIBLE], so this is a very different concept to me than the typical resource situation. Normally the resources, the quality of the resources and location determines whether you exploit things.
Exploitation is driven by the results. Here, the location- we determine the location because we're Cornell and [INAUDIBLE]. And so we're going to try to engineer a resource, which is a very different concept. I'm not saying it's a bad concept, but it gives us a lot of additional challenges. If successful, of course, then it changes the game, because we're no longer dependent on the location of the resource. We can take the engineering approach to wherever we want to go.
JEFFERSON TESTER: We're saying we can use the same ship in both directions.
AUDIENCE: [INAUDIBLE] tremendous experiment, but it is [INAUDIBLE] all said, it's an experiment. Get it right, it will change the game. We're not fortunate as you are in Iceland where the resources are amazing. The geothermal resource is incredible. And it has driven what's happened there largely. So we're reversing the process [INAUDIBLE] challenge.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Let's go up in the back and we'll come back.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: I guess my question's for Kyu. And I'm kind of curious, if it is successful, what's the plan for commercialization? Would you guys replicate the technology for the city of Ithaca and then expand to the neighboring suburbs? What's the plan there?
KYU-JUNG WHANG: I think it's too early to answer that question. Obviously, if we were successful, we make our technology and resources available to whoever is interested. So I would imagine that, at that point, we might be talking about a broader district-wide type system. There is the potential for doing that.
And certainly, this is not just ours. Others have just as much right to deep heat as we do. So obviously, at that point, we'll probably be looking at all options. And certainly, our goal in sustainability has always been, we want to be the leader so that others can emulate. So certainly, this would fall in that category.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Yeah. We haven't talked about this much, but certainly this is going on in Europe now for sure, countries that you wouldn't imagine would do this. And they're frequently doing in a combined heat and power, as well as direct use. And several of us came back from a conference just recently in Strasbourg, and this was a huge topic.
So it has scalability, I guess is what we're getting at. That showing people that it actually works in this part of the country, I think, would be an incentive, way beyond just Ithaca. And so it'll be a long path, but we have to get started somewhere.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: Well and I think to that point, though, that one of our hopes is certainly as we build this consortium, a partner will be the state. And the state will only partner to the degree it makes sense for the state economically, both as an industry and as an energy source. So if we're successful with state money, it's going to roll out statewide to the degree that the location makes sense.
And while we're not quite location agnostic, recall Ithaca sits on-- I think you showed the hotspot map. Hot's sort of a relative word, but it's a warmer spot map. So the resource will have to be good enough, but there are a large plays on the East Coast where that's true.
JEFFERSON TESTER: And another feature that if you were participating in our geothermal course right now, Thorleikur also spoke very elegantly about the amount of disruption that this occurred even in Reykjavik when they did this. They had to dig up the streets, put in a whole infrastructure for this. So there was clearly an endgame here. And that same sort of phenomenon would have to occur.
But in Ithaca, at least at Cornell, we have infrastructure already in place for district energy. So it helps to get that started. But that would have to be something that we think might be tied to transformation of America's cities that are getting pretty old, and tired, and not very competitive worldwide. If China can do this the way it's doing it now, there's no question that we ought to be able to get going on this.
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: Yeah, I was going to mention. There is another country, China, you mentioned it briefly. They are not in the lower right corner of the slide. They are up there.
We are drilling down to 3,000-- 3 kilometers to find something 70 to 90 degrees hot water. I started there maybe 15, 20 years ago, or 50 years ago, we would say. And today, this company, there's a 50-50 Icelandic Chinese company, we had heating homes for 1.5 million people. And in 2020, we will heat homes for 4 million people, this company alone.
Four million, OK, I know they are one point something billion. But only half of the population lives in the north. We only need 200 companies like this to complete the work. And they are actually-- their systems-- there is an acute difference. I don't know what is down there here, but there is water there.
And there is porosity. There is permeability. But there is no new water coming from outside into there. They are closed, so if we pump-- they started by pumping and no re-injection. And the water level went down, and it dried off.
But now we re-inject everything, especially if we have limestones. We have 100% re-injection. All the houses, and the district heating system is four maybe 70 degrees supply and down to 30 degrees return, huge delta T. And all the big houses, the multi-story houses are heated with floor heating system, leaving the return temperature is almost the same as the room temperature.
Putting a lot of pipes. And they wouldn't start this from the beginning. They were trying to connect old systems with this geothermal. And it was a total disaster.
I mean, I said to them, you have to build new houses, and that is nothing you have to do here. You have to have new district heating systems. You cannot rely on those old Russian designed systems. You have to start from scratch.
And they said, let's begin. And they started to put 70 degree water and got 65 back. And you know, it was ridiculous. And the politics in [INAUDIBLE], they complained about the steam coming from where they had, sometimes, to expose water.
But anyway, now this is a totally different story. They have learned over the past 10, 15 years that it is doable. And they are building, drilling like crazy. Most of the wells are down to 3.5.
One thing that amazed me. I don't know if that could be transported, the cost of drilling-- of course, it has to do with the formation, and possible of gas, and all those things-- but they are drilling wells for much less amount of money than I've ever heard of. I don't know how they do it, but they-- and they complete three kilometer wells in three weeks.
Chinese money. But I have seen, I've seen the bills from the companies. And I have seen them do this in three weeks. And you actually can see the drill string go down. So I believe them.
JEFFERSON TESTER: There is one other example that others might want to talk about. At Strasbourg, and this happened very rapidly, Paris had a big district heating system in geothermal. 300,000 homes were served in a Paris basin. It's a shallow aquifer system.
They've just expanded that to a million in just a few years. And they're going back, digging up infrastructure, putting in new pipes. But I mean, it's a lot different government in Paris than in China.
And so if they can do it there, you know, that's another example of this. And in other towns and cities in Europe. Susan, you had a question.
I was going to say that we have the advantage we're trying to do this now. And that is that the drilling's on sale in the US. We have more [INAUDIBLE] in the state of California. The drillers that were operating here in the east are [INAUDIBLE]. And they are not drilling because natural gas is so cheap that there's no point. So we have a moment in time where we can go out and do this for a lot less.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Write your congressman.
AUDIENCE: The economist is gone.
AUDIENCE: There are more here.
AUDIENCE: I go back to the times when lake source cooling was beginning. And certainly, one of the really challenging issues was rate of return. How long would it take to pay back?
So I'm a bit curious, because there's some relevant connection to suggest [INAUDIBLE] in terms of cost. So what's the estimate that it would take for the campus to reach return on its investment?
JEFFERSON TESTER: This is your question.
AUDIENCE: Because it's much longer than typical businesses.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Well, a lot depends on issues like discounting rate [INAUDIBLE] comes from but--
KYU-JUNG WHANG: We haven't really actually done that calculation.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Well the numbers I showed, Norm, just to put this in context for that New York map, we were using 3% and 4% of an average discount rate, because we would assume it would be a municipal investment, partly bonds, partly-- not something that was being done for profit, per se. Because it was so tied to the infrastructure. But that's a big assumption. We don't know what would happen here, could be different here.
KYU-JUNG WHANG: Yeah, we haven't done even a back of the envelope. You know, there's a danger to doing back of envelope calculations, because if I told you I did one, you'd want to know what the number is. And that number gets printed someplace, and it becomes a real number.
JEFFERSON TESTER: So the price of energy going out in the future, whether there's a real damage cost that comes with fossil fuels that actually goes back into the price would be an incentive to do things, those are not part of this calculation right now. We have none of that information.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: But one of the things that's interesting is if you look at the current options for the 2035 plan, there are numbers in there that are based on pretty conservative EIA estimates of what the social costs of carbon would be. Of course, what the reality is, that social cost isn't priced in yet. But if you assume by 2035 there is a cost, and that social cost would be a conservative number.
And then of course, we also have the leaked methane cost for the CHP plant. So if you look at those numbers, then you see pretty quickly, as Kyu said, actually air source heat ends up being the cheapest if that pricing was there today. It's not, so when does it transition? If any of us can answer that, we'd be in good shape.
AUDIENCE: No, I understand there's a lot of variables, but that cost, it's going to come up. When [? Laurie ?] asked about [INAUDIBLE] lake source cooling, it certainly was a big question.
JEFFERSON TESTER: I think it has to be a question of long term value. [INAUDIBLE] OK, we'll take-- we've got time for a couple more. We're going to officially quit at 6:00 though. So go ahead.
AUDIENCE: How easy is it to maintain these sort of systems over the course of their life? Because I know New York City has district steam, which is a different beast, because those are kind of designed to rust from the inside out. But I guess, [INAUDIBLE] you guys are using more hot water [INAUDIBLE].
JEFFERSON TESTER: So Reykjavik would be the good example, because they've had it in for so long. So how about the infrastructure, the length of time it lasts? And you have to watch the water quality, but you also have to deal with older pipes with insulation that looked like it was grass to start with?
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: I think we have-- I think we have already renovated all the pipes at least once, even twice in part of the city. But now we are installing it was very high quality pre-insulated steam pipes. And we actually expect them to last forever, I mean 60 years, or something. It's a very-- if the water is managed, if it is a closed loop and we have a good managing of the quality of the water, that they can last 50, 60 years before you have to renovate them.
So they are-- the only thing that can actually happen, if it is some problems from the inside. We don't have that problem, because the most recent technology of finishing the polyethylene casing around the insulation, it has been, I think, fully mastered, so to speak. So it can last a very, very long time.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Cornell's also doing this too, of course, when it redoes its infrastructure. So we want to make things better in terms of the performance and cut down on heat losses wherever we can, for sure.
THORLEIKUR JOHANNESSON: Of course, those systems, they run on much lower temperatures. Maybe 75 to 80 degree supply, and then the temperature is only 30, 35 back. And this is done partly to reduce heat loss from the network. To run them with such a low temperature.
But another important thing to have a low enthalpy or district heating method with such a low temperature, that you can probably, if you don't have geothermal for some reason, you can have some heat pumps assisted. And you can actually use other types of energy than burning something, like you are having now 60 PSI steam, 140, 150 degree. And it is very difficult to have a geothermal replacing that. It doesn't have this-- it's great, the exergy isn't that much in the geothermal water. So low temperature district heating systems are key to many things. And I had some interesting examples, but we have to leave it for another time.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Yeah, they can always come to your lecture tomorrow morning at 8:40 in the morning, right? In this room, by the way, right? Michael?
MICHAEL: Well, I have a couple of comments. The first one, I'm taking off on what Todd was saying, because if you're going to displace natural gas because you know want methane gas in the atmosphere, you're going to have a knock-on effect on the [INAUDIBLE] grid. And Because this is not electric power.
This is a displacement of some other source to stat with. So before you start that, you'd better be very serious about scalable nuclear facilities. Or in terms of getting some other facilities that we can handle on a gridline basis, in order to make this plan work and the greater scale.
EDWIN (TODD) COWEN: That's exactly right. You look at the options report, we actually address that pretty high, 100,000 foot view. But we recognize we're replacing right now a co-gen plant with a heat plant.
MICHAEL: Exactly. But what I'm saying is you've got to be willing to talk about it, and now I'm going to Kyu's point of not using the F word. We'll, you can't do this without using the F word.
And so if fracking, hydraulic stimulation, is part of the game, we should be educating the public to understand that nothing's free. And we're going to have it be integrating those kind of techniques along the way. And that means getting out front and saying what it is, instead of sidestepping behind it.
And last point is, I'm thinking of Edwin Land. First step in having a new idea is get rid of the old idea. And so why do we keep knocking at the Department of Energy's door for funding? Why don't we start to think about the other agencies that really have a greater interest in what you've been talking about, Department of Commerce, Department of Education, Housing and Urban Development?
Why don't we, as a group, put together these wonderful ideas-- this plan we've been talking about has got a lot of leadership potential. Why don't we knock at some other federal doors and get the agencies that really ought to have an interest in this, beyond the neanderthals at the Department of Energy-- I didn't mean to softball them-- and start thinking about changing their paradigm as well as ours. So we might start knocking on some different doors, in order to get the funding that's going to back up what Kyu has to do here on campus, and get some interest from other agencies that ought to be involved in a broader scope of what this project really means. This is not just about energy. This is an entirely different way to run your universe.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Yeah, I think it's a good point. We also listed foundations up here. There are many foundations which are taking on global challenges. Part of it's associated with health and the health of the planet, so this is as linked to that as you can imagine.
MICHAEL: Well methane gas is a great example.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Exactly.
MICHAEL: If that isn't a health issue, I don't know what is.
JEFFERSON TESTER: Yeah. Very good point. So I don't see a lot of hands here. I want to appreciate, thank everybody for coming. It's been a lively discussion. Thank our panelists, and we go forward.
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Icelandic engineer Thorleikur Johannesson told the story of how his country abandoned coal in favor of geothermal energy, Oct. 17, 2016 at a roundtable discussion organized by the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, the Atkinson Center for a Sustainable Future and the Cornell Energy Institute. Johannesson was joined by Todd Cowen, associate director for energy, Atkinson Center; KyuJung Whang, vice president for infrastructure, properties and planning; and moderator Jeff Tester, director of the Cornell Energy Institute. Cornell is considering geothermal heat to warm its campus.