Geothermal in Canada—at last?

Valemount, B.C. Home of Canada’s first geothermal industrial mall?

Finally, some geothermal activity is happening in Canada. Three projects are in planning or in progress:

For years Canada has been a Luddite in the lack of development of geothermal energy. Because of a confusion in terminology between geo-exchange (using heat pumps to use the temperature gradient in the soil) and geothermal (using the hot liquid from the earth’s magma), funding has been miniscule for real geothermal development.

An article about the global development of geothermal energy in Renewable Energy World  illustrates how meager Canada’s approach has been. The article notes the planned projects of 23 countries—Canada  is not included. The article briefly mentions a “bold movement” in B.C. to produce geothermal from abandoned oil wells.

Let’s hope that these projects become a reality. Here’s what is happening now.

Valemount

This project visualizes an industrial mall where the heating would be supplied by direct geothermal heat to industries such as greenhouses and a brewery. The plan includes a 15 MW power plant that could tie into the provincial electrical grid. Residual heat from the power plant could also be used in the industrial mall.

Saskatchewan

This project is slated to begin this month near Estevan, Saskatchewan. In the first stage, Deep Earth Energy Production (DEEP) will be drilling into the aquifer of the Williston basin to explore its geothermal potential. The drilling isn’t random because existing oil and gas wells nearby indicate bottom hole temperatures that are in a workable temperature range to develop geothermal. DEEP plans a 5 MW power plant within 2.5 years and is discussing a possible sale of this power to Sask Power.

Alberta

CanGEA has revealed this grant from the Alberta government to investigate which idled oil and gas wells could realistically produce geothermal energy. A representative of CanGEA has warned that the association doesn’t want the geothermal project to become just another part of the Alberta government’s cleanup of idled wells.

To-date, CanGEa has released few details except to state that geothermal could also be developed with producing wells in addition to abandoned ones. CanGEA has promised to keep the public informed about the progress of the study and to publicly reveal the study’s findings.

B.C. Hydro and geothermal

These are exciting announcement,  but one glaring absence continues—B.C. Hydro, the electric power producer for the Canadian province with the largest potential for geothermal. Many countries around the Pacific Rim—which has most of the easiest-to-access geothermal potential—have developed this potential. An expert, Dr. Mory Ghomshei, hired by B.C. Hydro in 1984, investigated the geothermal potential of B.C. and more specifically of Meager Creek north of Vancouver. There, Dr. Gomshei and his team constructed a small geothermal electric plant. Despite the success of this plant when B.C. Hydro downsized, it scrapped this plant.

What might have been

Dr. Gomshei concluded from his geothermal study of B.C. that, “BC’s geothermal could supply 60 percent of BC’s electricity needs.” Unfortunately, B.C. Hydro never really followed up with any serious studies until recently. Even their studies, which Can GEA said underestimated the potential, showed that the amount of available geothermal power in the province is two-thirds of the projected capacity of Site C.

Site C is the huge hydro-electric project that will cause devastating environmental and social costs in the Peace River. Many people including the former head of B.C. Hydro have spoken out against the project pointing out that the province doesn’t need that much power and that renewables such as geothermal could be in production by the time any increased need emerges.

 

Speak Your Mind

*