Why Geothermal Will Be Big in 2016

Large Tarsands Plant

With Alberta’s recent Climate Leadership Plan announcement (which describes plans to phase out coal-fired power by 2030) and tech giants like Google and Apple switching to renewable energy sources to power their operations, it looks as if 2016 might be the year renewable energy sources will emerge as the frontrunners for creating a more sustainable environment, both in Canada and the rest of the world.

Renewable energy sources are resources that are naturally replenished by the earth over time and include solar, wind and geothermal energy. Although fossil fuels are also continually being formed via natural processes, the rate at which they are formed (taking millions of years) make them a nonrenewable resource less suitable for mass consumption. Despite this disparity in growth and demand, fossil fuels are still the leading source of energy in the world, making up 86.4% of all energy consumption on the planet.

The burning of fossil fuels have also been found to pose serious concerns to the environment, producing around 21.3 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, an amount that the earth’s natural processes simply can’t absorb fast enough. This leaves us with an excess of carbon dioxide in the environment, a greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming and thereby, many other significantly adverse environmental and health effects.

A global movement towards the generation of renewable energy is therefore under way to help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions. Canada has proven itself a world leader in the production and use of energy from renewable resources, with renewable energy sources currently providing about 16.9% of Canada’s total primary energy supply.

Of these renewable sources, geothermal energy has emerged as one of the most promising fossil fuel alternatives. Like solar and wind energy, geothermal energy allows for electric generation and heating in a manner that’s both affordable and sustainable.

Geothermal energy is created from heat stored in the earth’s crust. Radioactive rock elements deep in the Earth’s core heat up and warm the earth’s interior, generating additional thermal energy that we can capture and use to generate electricity and heat. These resources can be extracted through the use of geothermal power stations that can drill deep into the earth. Its extremely low rate of greenhouse gas emissions (less than 5% of fossil-fuel plants’ rate) and easy accessibility make it an incredibly sustainable and advantageous energy source.

Geothermal plants operate best in cold temperatures.The larger the temperature difference between the geothermal resource and the air temperature outside, the more efficiently geothermal plants operate. This makes a cold northern country like Canada an ideal setting for geothermal plants. Canada actually has a sizeable amount of geothermal resources under its soil, with the largest resources being located in British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon, and the Northwest Territories. Several heat and power generation projects are currently being considered, with the Government of Canada confirming that the South Meager project located in British Columbia is the most advanced geothermal power project in Canada.

"Our government recognizes that reliable, secure, and affordable energy sources foster northern economic development and have the potential to create jobs, growth and long-term prosperity,” Ryan Leef, member of Parliament for Yukon, stated when announcing the federal government’s plans to support research into geothermal energy.

While there are currently over 95,000 ground-source heat pumps installed throughout the country, Canada is still a largely untapped resource for geothermal energy production.

Other countries have been more embracing of this emerging renewable energy source. Geothermal power currently generates 66% of Iceland’s energy production, turning one of the poorest countries in Europe into a nation with one of the highest standards of living in the world, thanks in part to their shift in energy sources from coal to geothermal heat.

The United States is also making big strides in generating geothermal power capacity, installing geothermal plants that account for 28% of worldwide geothermal power.

Only time will tell if geothermal heating will one day become a leading energy source in Canada. But with world energy consumption growing at about 2.3% per year, introducing alternative forms of energy sources to Canadians is definitely a step in the right direction for creating a more environmentally sustainable future.

A&H Drilling provides home and property owners free assessments and quotes for geothermal systems. Contact us today to book yours.