Canada has big geothermal potential, industry says

Mon Aug 9, 2010 4:57pm EDT
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By Nicole Mordant

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canada has the potential to generate enough clean, low-cost electricity from geothermal sources to power 5 million homes, the country's geothermal association said on Monday.

As things stand though, the resource-rich country does not produce a single unit of geothermal energy, which comes from hot water and steam produced by heat deep below the earth's surface.

This is a result of a lack of government funding, a shortage of land made available for development, a dearth of knowledge and the existence of other cheap and more traditional power sources like hydro and natural gas, Alison Thompson, chairman of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association said.

"Geothermal is practically the lowest-cost electricity, not only of the renewables," Thompson told delegates at an industry conference in Vancouver, showing a slide where only coal-generated power was cheaper.

"But people don't even know it's an option, even in towns where there are hot springs," she later told Reuters on the sidelines of the conference.

In geothermal power production, hot water and steam from underground are piped up and used to drive turbines in plants that generate electricity.

Well-known manifestations of geothermal energy are geysers and hot springs, which form when heated water rises and breaks through the earth's surface.

In Canada, as in the United States, most of the geothermal resources are found in the West. Thompson said Canada has at least 5,000 megawatts of geothermal resource in the western provinces of British Columbia, Alberta, Yukon and Northwest Territories.   Continued...