Canada gets most of its energy from hydropower, coal and nuclear. But scientists say that geothermal power could meet the country’s energy needs one million times over.
The statement is taken from a federal report on geothermal energy. The document was compiled by a team of 12 scientists led by Stephen Grasby at the federal Geological Survey of Canada and made public on the eve of a conference in Toronto earlier this month.
One of the main advantages of geothermal is that it is available 24 hours, unlike wind and solar, which face intermittency issues.
British Columbia, Alberta, the Yukon and Northwest Territories are the areas where the heat exists closer to the surface, but there are geothermal energy opportunities all over Canada. The researchers estimate that 100 projects would meet the country’s energy needs.
The biggest drawback for geothermal implementation is that upfront costs are very high. The logistics involved are quite daunting: wells must be drilled miles into the earth to bring heat to the surface. And then plants need to be built to turn the heat into electricity. All of this comes with its share of environmental impact, but much less aggressive than the impact caused by fossil fuels.
The report highlights a technique called ‘enhanced geothermal’ as one with great potential. Water or CO2 is injected into the wells so that it can migrate through the cracked rocks to capture heat. The heated water or CO2 is brought back to the surface to produce electricity. Europe and Australia are currently testing this type of hydropower technology.
What do you think? Is geothermal a truly sustainable alternative, and economically viable one as well?
Article by Antonio Pasolini, a Brazilian writer and video art curator based in London, UK. He holds a BA in journalism and an MA in film and television.