Geothermal could meet Canada’s power needs  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

Tyler Hamilton has an article in the Toronto Star about a study into the potential of geothermal energy in Canada - Geothermal could meet Canada’s power needs.

Canada could technically meet all its electricity needs and dramatically lower greenhouse-gas emissions if it moved aggressively to develop enhanced geothermal power projects, according to the first comprehensive assessment of the country’s deep geothermal resources.

The study, published online in the Journal of Geophysics and Geoengineering, reports on the potential of using enhanced geothermal systems (EGS) to tap hot temperatures kilometres below the earth’s surface as a way of generating clean electricity.

It found that the most promising Canadian sites are located in parts of British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan at depths ranging from 3.5 to 6.5 kilometres. Drill deeper, however, and the potential extends right across the country – including parts of Ontario.

“At 10 kilometres we can expect EGS temperatures in the 150 to 200 degrees C range across most of Canada, except some areas of the Canadian shield,” wrote Stephen Grasby, a geologist with the Geological Survey of Canada, and co-author Jacek Majorowicz, an Alberta-based geothermal consultant.

“Given the widespread distribution of geothermal energy, and the high energy content, the potential geothermal resource in Canada is significant,” they concluded.

The findings aren’t surprising – I’ve been pounding on this drum for several years now. But it’s encouraging to finally see it expressed in a peer-reviewed journal. Canada, shamefully, is the only country along the so-called Pacific Ring of Fire that has yet to switch on a conventional geothermal power plant.

The irony is that Canada is home to several of the continent’s leading geothermal power developers. Problem is they’re mostly developing in Nevada, California, Nicaragua, Iceland, Chile – everywhere except Canada, where no formal development program exists.

Maybe now the federal and provincial governments will take the issue more seriously.

This new Canadian study comes three years after the release of a groundbreaking U.S. study led by experts at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Their research suggested EGS in the United States could realistically supply about 100,000 megawatts of power generation capacity by 2050, assuming the proper policies and R&D investments were committed.

For comparison, 100,000 megawatts – or 100 gigawatts—is roughly 80 per cent of Canada’s current power generation capacity. It’s about one-twelfth of current U.S. capacity. And the MIT-led group predicted it could be built less expensively than building new nuclear plants or investing in carbon capture and storage technologies for coal plants.

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