Clean Power

Published on September 14th, 2011 | by Andrew


Forget Tar Sands: Canada’s Geothermal Resources >1 Million Times Electricity Consumption

September 14th, 2011 by  

Photo credit: Leah Hennel, Calgary Herald

Canada’s sitting on “massive” geothermal resources, according to news reports, more than 1 million times its current electricity consumption. “As few as 100 projects could meet Canada’s energy needs,” notes the Geological Survey of Canada research team whose 322-page report will be presented at a geothermal industry conference in Toronto Thursday, Sept. 15.

Better yet, the 12-scientist team found that geothermal heat reservoirs found across “large swaths of British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories” lie close to the surface, making them easier to reach and tap into.

The research team estimates that there are at least 5 gigawatts (GW) of geothermal power available in British Columbia, Alberta and the Yukon alone. British Columbia has so much that it could produce as much electricity as the controversial $7.9-billion, 1,100 megawatt Site C hydroelectric dam the provincial government has proposed, according to the research team’s findings.

While the geothermal resources in these areas hold the greatest potential to be developed commercially, such opportunities exist across the country, the researchers say.

In contrast to fossil fuel electrical power plants, geothermal power plants produce no greenhouse gas emissions, and geothermal is a renewable resource. It’s cost-effective, and in contrast to renewable energy resources, such as wind and solar that produce electricity on an intermittent basis, it provides a steady stream of electricity, or baseload power.

These resources are an “assured source of clean, reliable energy,” and Canada should be testing advanced geothermal energy systems in order to develop them, one research team member told The Montreal Gazette’s Margaret Munro.

“Of anywhere in the world, Canada has the technology and knowledge to move this forward,” research team leader Stephen Grasby said, referring to Canadian companies’ expertise in energy exploration, production and mining.

It’s almost laughable if it wasn’t so startling, but Canada has no, zero, geothermal power plants up and running. The report may be both a long-awaited boon for the nation’s geothermal industry, and a wake-up call to the Canadian government.


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About the Author

I've been reporting and writing on a wide range of topics at the nexus of economics, technology, ecology/environment and society for some five years now. Whether in Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Americas, Africa or the Middle East, issues related to these broad topical areas pose tremendous opportunities, as well as challenges, and define the quality of our lives, as well as our relationship to the natural environment.

  • Paul

    The report actually states “Canada has significant potential for EGS development, as few as 100 projects could meet a significant fraction of Canada’s base load energy needs.” not 100%

    Paul in Calgary

  • Anonymous

    Cost comparisons to building the dam?

    How about the cost of building a HVDC transmission line south to the US as opposed to building the tar pipeline? Might there be clean money made selling electricity down here?

    • Anonymous

      “The initial cost for the field and power plant is around $2500 per installed kW in the U.S.” That makes it $2,500,000 per mW.

      $7.9-billion, 1,100 megawatt Site C hydroelectric dam

      $2.75 billion for 1,100 megawatts of geothermal if the $2500/kW and my math are correct.

      I does look like geothermal might have a higher operating cost per kWh than hydro might. The link states $0.01 to $0.03/kWh. I’m finding operating costs of 0.4 cents to 0.85 cents/kWh for hydro.

      Looks like geothermal is lower capex (as those in the game like to use for capital expense) and a little higher for opex (operating expense).

      In terms of externalities such as damming rivers and flooding beautiful canyons, geothermal wins.

      • T

        Thank you Bob, I was questioning the cost compared to the dam. The other nice thing is since the thermal spots are smaller in size and faster to put up to begin power the nation. While the dam will take time to construct and fill with water on a longer time scale before it start make power and generating its ROI.

  • David in NYC

    Geothermal & tidal energy truly will be the world’s energy future. There’s simply so much of it that the fossil power elite won’t be able to stop it.
    Someday will find burning coal and oil as ridiculous as people use to burn whale oil and firewood.
    Greed keeps the world the same.

    • Anonymous

      “Greed keeps the world the same.”

      Well said. I agree…

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