Geothermal Energy Could Fuel Alberta’s Next Boom

Premier Rachel Notley

By Arman Kazemi

July 9, 2015

With the Alberta NDP’s rise to power in early May, the opportunity to rethink the provinces economy has emerged and geothermal may play an important role.

After Premier Rachel Notley announced the expansion of emissions regulations and a carbon-pricing advisory panel last week, alternative forms of energy generation gained new viability in a province that has historically relied on fossil fuels.

According to analysts, Alberta’s experience in drilling and complex resource extraction is a great starting point for growing nascent geothermal industry.

“You have to go down so deep to get any heat,” ATB Financial’s chief economist Todd Hirsch told the CBC. “We have experience drilling through four miles worth of rock to get at other things that are valuable. I think Alberta is perfectly situated to make the technology work,” he said.

Geothermal technology extracts hot water from the earth’s crust, using the resulting steam to power electricity turbines and returning water below the surface when done. And while geothermal can be costly, Alberta’s recent push to price carbon and fund clean tech makes the province a viable market to demonstrate the feasibility of the technology

Borealis Geopower, a Calgary-based company with geothermal operations under development in the interior of British Columbia, is looking for the right regulatory moves from Notley’s government to establish projects in its home province.

“There’s more and more interest, especially when we’re talking about in Alberta the NDP government [and] opportunities for a new carbon regime,” says Borealis Geopower’s chief geologist Craig Dunn in the Edmonton Journal. “That’s driving a lot of people to ask these questions.”

According to the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association, Canada has over 5,000 megawatts of geothermal potential exploitable with current technologies. If this new production offset existing coal facilities, up to 25 mega tonnes of C02 emissions could be avoided annually.