Monday, September 19, 2011

Huge geothermal potential in Canada

(Canada has done major harm to its rivers with big dams, and is busily
exploiting its dirty 'tar sands", yet it has massive geothermal

Canada has vast geothermal potential

Near surface in West and North; Hot rocks could produce more power
than country consumes, federal report says

By MARGARET MUNRO, Postmedia News September 14, 2011

A "massive" store of clean, renewable energy is sitting at Canadians'
feet, according to a federal report on geothermal energy.

Tapping into hot rocks that are tantalizingly close to the surface in
western and northern Canada could generate more electricity than the
entire country now consumes and generate few greenhouse gas emissions,
says the report by a team of 12 scientists led by Stephen Grasby of
the federal Geological Survey of Canada.

"As few as 100 projects could meet Canada's energy needs," according
to the team's findings, to be presented at a geothermal conference in
Toronto on Thursday.

The 322-page report suggests the clean, renewable source of energy
could be a game-changer.

"Canada's in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada's
current electrical consumption," the report says.

The heat is closest to the surface in large swaths of British
Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories, but the report
says geothermal energy opportunities exist across Canada.

The report says that geothermal has distinct advantages over not only
fossil fuels and nuclear energy but also wind, solar and biofuels, as
the Earth's heat is available 24 hours a day, year-round.
Grasby said that geothermal is not without technological and
environmental risks.
But there is no question there is a vast amount of clean energy
underfoot, he said, adding that the country is well placed to start
drilling for it.
"Of anywhere in the world, Canada has the technology and knowledge to
move this forward," Grasby said, pointing to expertise devised for
energy exploration and mining.

Co-author Michael Moore, an expert on geothermal energy at the
University of Calgary, said Canada should be testing advanced
geothermal energy systems, as they promise an assured source of clean,
reliable energy.

Geothermal is free of the greenhouse gases generated by electricity
plants powered by coal and other fossil fuels, he said, and it
sidesteps the problems with nuclear power, which are making headlines
again this week after an explosion at a nuclear waste treatment site
in France.

"It is just silly not to take advantage of a heat source like this,"
Moore said.
Canada's fledgling, and in many ways frustrated, geothermal energy
industry welcomed the federal report.

Craig Dunn, chief executive officer of Borealis GeoPower in Calgary,
said "people often look at us like we're crazy" when trying to promote
Canada's "phenomenal" geothermal resource. "Well, now we can now point
to this report by a team of very reputable people," Dunn said.

Temperatures at the centre of the Earth hover around 5,500 degrees
Celsius, which is about as hot as the sun's surface.

The lava spewing out of volcanoes, and hot water from geysers and hot
springs, give just a glimpse of the heat available within five
kilometres of the surface.

One of the biggest advantages of geothermal is that it is constantly
"You don't need the wind to blow or the sun to shine," said Alexander
Richter, director of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association.

The biggest downside to geothermal energy is the high upfront costs.
Wells must be drilled kilometres deep to bring the heat to the surface
and plants must be built to turn the heat into electricity.

It takes five to seven years to get a geothermal energy system
operating, Richter said.

But once the plant is in place the energy, at least in theory, would
flow indefinitely, said Richter, whose association is looking to
Ottawa for more technical and regulatory support.

Geothermal energy has long been used in Iceland to directly heat homes
and buildings, and it is increasingly used in the U.S. and elsewhere
to generate electricity.

In conventional geothermal systems, hot water is drawn up and used to
drive generators to produce electricity.

Canada has yet to plug into geothermal electricity but there are
several small projects on the drawing boards in western and northern

But those projects just scratch the surface, said Richter and his
They estimate there are at least 5,000 megawatts of geothermal
electricity available in B.C., Alberta and the Yukon.

� Copyright (c) The Montreal Gazette

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