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Hot Rocks: Canada Sits Atop Massive Geothermal Resource

Report suggests 100 projects could provide much of the country's power needs

2 min read
Hot Rocks: Canada Sits Atop Massive Geothermal Resource

A report published by the Geological Survey of Canada last week outlines the huge geothermal energy potential available in the world's second largest country by area. Canada currently has no geothermal electricity generation, but the report says that 100 or so individual geothermal projects could provide a substantial part of the country's baseload power needs.

"Canada's in-place geothermal power exceeds one million times Canada's current electrical consumption," the report notes, though also stating most of that available power could not actually be produced. "Environmental impacts of geothermal development are relatively minor compared to other energy developments, however there are still key issues to be addressed....Geothermal installations have the potential to displace other more costly and environmentally damaging technologies."

There is at least 5000 megawatts of available geothermal power in various parts of British Columbia, Alberta, and the Yukon. What's more, the report's authors write, the cost of delivering geothermal power is expected to rival the costs of coal within 15 years or so. The limitations of developing the huge geothermal resource have a lot to do with location: Some of the most promising areas are far away from load centers, and the costs of developing huge transmission corridors to bring the power to where it is needed would make such projects unfeasible. Still, there is enough located in accessible areas to make a big difference.

Geothermal power in the United States is further along than in Canada, though there remain ample untapped resources in a number of areas. Last year, researchers reported that West Virginia houses an amazing geothermal capacity of more than 18 000 MW. There are close to 200 geothermal projects underway around the country, expected to provide 7000 MW of electricity by the time they're finished.

And then, of course, there's Iceland. The small country takes full advantage of its unique geologic situation, generating almost all of its electricity from a combination of hydropower and geothermal. Canada may not approach such lofty renewable heights, but it's good to know that the resource is available. We'll see if momentum builds on actually developing it.

(Image via Geological Survey of Canada)

The Conversation (0)
This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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