Geothermal power in Canada
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The largest conventional resources for geothermal power in Canada are located in British Columbia, Yukon and Alberta; these regions also contain potential for Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS). In 2007 it was estimated that geothermal energy could meet half of British Columbia's electricity needs.1
Canada's government (which officially notes some 30,000 earth-heat installations for providing space heating to Canadian residential and commercial buildings) reports that the most advanced project exists as a test geothermal-electrical site in the Meager Mountain-Pebble Creek area of British Columbia, where a 100 - 300 MW facility could be developed.
The remaining Canadian provinces and territories contain potential for Enhanced Geothermal. Low temperature - or direct heat potential (sometimes called geothermal heating) exist everywhere in Canada. There are six geothermal power and two direct use projects listed with the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association.
Canadian Geothermal Resources in Context
The United States, ``currently leads the world’s countries in installed geothermal power capacity with approximately 3,187 MW online and continues to be one of the principal countries to increase the development of its geothermal resources.``2 Whereas, Canada has 0 MW online, however, the geology conducive to geothermal development does not arbitrarily end at the American-Canadian border. 3 A number of states that share a border with Canada have significant geothermal capacity in development. It is estimated that Alaska has 95 MW in development, Idaho has 438-514 MW, Washington has 100 MW and even North Dakota has two small developments underway.4
At present, Canada remains the only major country in the Pacific Rim that is not producing electricity from its geothermal resources.5 This is despite the fact that the colder it is outside, the more electricity a geothermal power plant can produce. This is because the larger the temperature differentials between the geothermal resource and the ambient air temperature, the more efficiently geothermal plants operate. This makes geothermal power ideal for cold northern countries.6
In 2012, the Geological survey of Canada issued a report entitled, the “Geothermal Energy Resource Potential of Canada (Open File 6914) (“The GSC Report”).7 The GSC Report concluded that “Canada’s in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada’s current electrical consumption.” Even if just a fraction of this energy can be put to use, it has the potential to significantly impact the Canadian electricity grid.
The GSC Report also notes that:
The now defunct National Geothermal Program (a Canadian government research program that ended in 1986) demonstrated that Canada has a geological environment favourable to geothermal development (Jessop, 2008a, 2008b)(Chapter 3). This program defined high temperature resources suitable for geothermal exploration and development, particularly in British Columbia, Yukon and the Northwest Territories. Medium and low temperature geothermal resources were also defined within sedimentary basins and abandoned mines throughout Canada. Pilot projects drilled at Meager Creek, British Columbia and Regina, Saskatchewan further proved that geothermal power production in Canada is feasible. Now 25 years since the program ended advancements in technologies have further increased the economic potential of these geothermal resources.
- And that the -
Highest potential regions for electrical generation are located in British Columbia, Yukon, NWT and northern Alberta. Where suitably located these systems could be connection to transmission lines, providing reliable and clean base load power to Canadians.
- Skelton, Chad (24 December 2007). "Geothermal energy could meet half of B.C.'s electricity needs, researcher says" (dead link). The Vancouver Sun.
- Geothermal Energy Association. (2013). 2013 Annual US Geothermal Power Production and Development Reports. Washington, D.C.: Geothermal Energy Association. Retrieved 09 23, 2013 at p. 19, 24, 29 & 33
- Morphet, Suzanne (March–April 2012), "Exploring BC's Geothermal Potential", Innovation Magazine (Journal of the Association of Professional Engineers and Geoscientists of BC): 22