Geothermal energy development offers opportunity for diversification

By District Energy posted 11-30-2020 15:36


While not often on the same page, it appears the UCP government and the NDP are at least reading from the same book when it comes to the potential for diversifying Alberta’s energy sector through geothermal energy development. 

Describing it as a “no-brainer,” NDP leader Rachel Notley said earlier this month the province has the skills and workforce to take geothermal energy to the next level.  

“We have a reputation as energy leaders, and we can capitalize on that to lead in all forms of energy, including renewables like geothermal,” Notley said during a press conference in Calgary Nov. 6. 

Bill 36, the Geothermal Resource Development Act, is currently before the Alberta Legislature with an aim to laying the groundwork for geothermal development in the province. The Act, if passed, outlines rules and processes for industry, legislative authority for land use and liability management, and the protection of landowners and mineral rights owners. 

“Encouraging the development of low-emitting geothermal energy will play an important role in Alberta’s economic recovery by attracting investment and creating jobs in this emerging sector,” Energy minister Sonya Savage said in announcing Bill 36. “Through this legislation, we are establishing a clear path forward for geothermal projects, while ensuring the resource is developed responsibly and in the best interests of Albertans, including landowners.” 

Okotoks has a district heating network using geo-exchange but the system also uses solar to further heat the exchange fluid and put higher temperatures into the ground for storage.  New technological advance are being developed to make these systems work more effectively in the long term. 

“What we are talking about is about being able to tap temperatures that are much higher up to 100 degrees,” Hickson said of the deep geothermal Alberta No. 1 project. “It is that extra heat content that allows you to do things that you can’t do with a geo-exchange system just because you’ve got a lot more heat to play with.”