Where is there Geothermal Energy in Canada?

Renewable energy is all the talk nowadays as governments and experts around the world begin to see it as the future of the energy industry. In Canada specifically 17.3% of our electricity is generated by renewables, with most of the generation coming from hydro stations, biomass factories, and wind farms. Solar is less prominent in Canada due to a lack of sunlight potential, but still makes up for around 0.6% of our renewable generation. However, all this data has had me thinking. As a child I remember learning about the different types of renewable energy, and the method I remember finding the most interesting is the one I also hear the least about as an adult. Geothermal energy. The idea that we could grab heat from the earth’s core and power our houses and schools seemed like a genius idea. So why are we not doing it? To understand this, we first need to understand how geothermal energy actually works.

There are three common ways to harvest heat beneath the earth’s surface, and turn it into electricity. The first is a dry steam plant which collects steam from fractures in the ground, and uses that steam to power a turbine and create electricity. Method two is a flash plant which harvests high pressurized hot water from underground and mixes it with low pressurized cooler water to create steam. Once again, this steam is used to rotate a turbine and create electricity. The last method is something called a binary plant which collects hot water and then passes it by another fluid with a much lower boiling point. This causes the secondary liquid to vaporize, thereby creating steam and turning a turbine. Binary plants are the most environmentally friendly of the three, and release almost zero CO2 emissions. On top of this, these plants can run all day everyday as they do not require wind or sun. They are relatively inexpensive to operate making them very profitable over the long run. They have a small geological footprint and can generate electricity, heat, and cooling directly.

So why are we not building them? The United States of America is the largest producer of geothermal energy in the world, and yet Canada produces almost none. Canada has an abundant amount of potential for geothermal energy too, specifically in BC which lies within the Pacific Ring of Fire (a horseshoe shaped area full of active volcanos and earthquake zones). Even in Ontario, if you dug deep enough, you would be able to produce geothermal energy. On top of this, there already exists Canadian companies which operate geothermal plants outside of Canada, but not within Canada. So, to finally get to the point, here are the main reasons geothermal is not a prominent method of generation in Canada:

  1. Canada has plenty of cheap energy resources already. In BC and Yukon where the geothermal potential is greatest, there exists large hydropower stations which are both cheap and efficient. The BC government continues to invest in their hydropower, and easily meets their customer consumption demands. Investing in geothermal just seems like a waste of money and time.
  2. The upfront cost is too high for the risk. Drilling for geothermal deposits is just as complicated as drilling for oil and gas. Large amounts of research and construction must be done before any electricity is generated, making the costs seem not worth it.
  3. There is very minimal government interest. Many locations for rich geothermal energy are also locations for rich amounts of oil and gas. The government would rather produce more oil to increase exports than invest in a new process.

Another issue that is not specific to Canada is that geothermal plants release large amounts of hydrogen sulfide gas into the air. The gas particles break down within a few days, but its initial high concentration levels can be hazardous to aquatic life, birds, and animals. Other waste chemicals can also be produced as a by-product which can contain varying health risks. Finally geothermal sites don’t last forever and their resource deposits can be depleted after a minimum of a few decades.

It may seem like geothermal energy will never exist in Canada, but I wouldn’t be so certain. The recent implementation of a carbon tax across the country may begin to cause oil and gas companies to look to invest their resources into more environmentally friendly areas of energy. The easiest transition for these companies would be to begin investing in geothermal energy which involves similar exploration and drilling processes. Unfortunately it is far too early to determine what will happen with geothermal energy in Canada. I can only hope that in the future, more people will see its true potential as a viable way to generate energy.

By: Tyler Murphy

References:

https://www.nrcan.gc.ca/science-data/data-analysis/energy-data-analysis/energy-facts/renewable-energy-facts/20069

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/global-warming/geothermal-energy/#close

Meet Ted Hsu

By Zoe Dickson

Physicist and politician Ted Hsu is the keynote speaker for QGEC’s Fall Taster this Thursday. A Queen’s and Princeton alumni, he currently advocates for science and innovation in government and society.    

Born in 1964, Dr. Theodore “Ted” Hsu grew up in Kingston & graduated from Queen’s University in 1984 with a Bachelor of Science (Honours) in Physics. A talented man of Chinese heritage, Hsu is fluent in English, French, and Mandarin and is a gifted pianist and chess player.

Ted completed his Ph.D in Physics at Princeton University in 1989. He has authored and co-authored 25 research papers as well as completing post-doctoral research in British Columbia, Ontario, and France.

Throughout his nine-year career in finance, Ted has worked as a researcher and trader for the Banque Nationale de Paris in France, and as an executive director in Morgan Stanley in Tokyo,

Ted has worked in the US, France, Japan & Canada, and spent three years as a stay-at-home father to his two daughters.

For three years Ted was the co-chair of the Kingston Financial Advisory Forum, a committee in place to advise the council on environmental matters. He is also currently a member of the board of directors for the Fields Institute for Research in Mathematical Sciences and is an advisor to SYNG Pharmaceuticals, a female health and biotech start-up.

From 2007-2010 Ted was executive director of SWITCH. SWITCH is a not-for-profit organisation that aims to increase energy literacy, provides support to the sustainable energy sector and to shift the Canadian economy away from fossil fuels.

In May 2011, Ted Hsu was elected as MP for Kingston, one of only two new Liberal MP elected in the country in the party’s worst showing in history. This followed four years as treasurer for the Kingston and the Islands Federal Liberal Association. In 2013, now-prime minister Justin Trudeau appointed Ted Hsu as the Liberal Party’s critic for Science and Technology, as well as Post-Secondary Education, Natural Resources & Federal Economic Development in Ontario. In November 2013, Ted won the Maclean’s Parliamentarian of the Year Award, awarded to the MP who “best represents constituents”.

Ted now lives in Kingston with his family and continues to advocate passionately for STEM education, climate change mitigation and electoral reform.

Come along to the QGEC taster on Thursday, November 15th in the ILC Atrium at 7pm to hear Ted Hsu present, get a sneak peek into the conference and enjoy some free pizza!

Canada’s Innovation Supercluster Initiative

Megan McEvoy – September 2018

Canada seeks ways to keep up as the world races to have the most current breakthroughs in innovation and technology. With the United States’ progress in Silicon Valley, Canada seeks to match its advancements in innovation and job creation.

Canada has invested $950 million over five years into an initiative called the Innovation Supercluster Initiative (ISI).  The initiative has been built to progress Canada’s innovation efforts and pull together businesses of a variety of sizes including large firms, research institutions, and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). Over the past year the initiative has been launched for applications, applicants have been shortlisted, and finally five areas focusing on different energy sectors have been chosen for the initiative. The money will be contributed to not-for-profit entities that represent industry-led consortia.

The superclusters have been chosen across Canada. There are five different sectors located in British Columbia, Prairie Provinces, Ontario, Quebec, and Atlantic Canada. The superclusters are partnered with various companies, not-for-profit organizations, and post-secondary schools across Canada in effort to improve innovation in a variety of sectors.

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https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/093.nsf/eng/00008.html

British Columbia – Digital Technology Supercluster

The major increase in data across the globe has increased in the last two years more than ever in the history of the human race. The need for data analysis is required more than ever and Canada strives to be a global leader in the digital sector. The digital technology supercluster will increase productivity in mining, the health sector, and preserve the native indigenous languages by documenting them and digitally storing them.

https://www.digitalsupercluster.ca

Prairie Provinces – Protein Industries Supercluster

The Prairie Provinces will focus on food growth and farming technology in the Prairie provinces to increase the value of Canadian crops.  The supercluster plans to place Canada a global leader for high-quality plant proteins and plant-based products. The industry will contribute to economic growth by keeping an international trade balance for Canada. The production environment is planned to be carbon neutral, keeping the processes efficient. The official launch of the Protein Industries Supercluster is taking place in Winnipeg, Manitoba from October 3rd to 4th and will bring leaders across the industry together.

https://www.proteinindustriescanada.ca

Ontario – Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster

Next Generation Manufacturing Canada (NGen) runs the Advanced Manufacturing Supercluster and plans to improve products and generate jobs across Canada. NGen will help companies of all sizes shift to advanced manufacturing processes using technology such as 3D printing and artificial intelligence (AI).  NGen will connect Canadian manufacturers, schools, government, and technology providers to advance the Canadian manufacturing sector. The board of directors for the supercluster NGen is made of leaders from a variety of companies such as Linamar, Woodbridge Group, University of Toronto, Siemens, MaRS Discovery District, Xerox, and more.

http://www.ngmcanada.com

Quebec – AI-Powered Supply Chains Supercluster (SCALE.AI)

As the innovation in robotics and artificial intelligence increases, Quebec will become a hub for companies focusing on this development. Major companies include Canadian Tire, Air Canada, Aecon, SNC, PWC, Cisco, and more who are in partnership with the supercluster. To have a major impact on Canada’s economy SCALE AI claims that by 2028 it will generate more than 16,000 jobs and grow JDP by more than 16.5 billion dollars. The SCALE AI supercluster has tailored objectives per key stakeholder. The stakeholders include: supply chain users, supply chains/AI/digital providers, start-ups, the workforce, and Canada as a whole. The objectives per stakeholder can be found in the strategy section of the SCALE AI website, using the link listed below.

https://aisupplychain.ca

Atlantic Canada – Ocean Supercluster

Canada’s economy benefits from the ocean industry on the Atlantic Coastline including fisheries, aquaculture, marine bio-products, transportation, defence, marine renewables, oil and gas, and overall ocean technology. The Ocean Supercluster will partner with companies such as IBM, Siemens, Microsoft, and ABB, to name a few.

https://oceansupercluster.ca

Superclusters will create programs to better lead the respective supercluster to their goals in innovation.  Programs are initiated by members of each supercluster that determine these projects. The project ideas increase collaboration across organizations within the supercluster. Then Projects are then decided upon by the board of the respective supercluster and projects are supported by matching government funding.

The investment is to be matched dollar for dollar by the private sector and is expected to provide over 50,000 jobs in the next ten years, allowing Canada’s economy to grow. The projects that come out of Canada’s supercluster initiatives will increase productivity, jobs, economic growth, and hopefully make Canada a global leader in the energy sector for innovation. More information on the Supercluster Initiative can be found at: https://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/093.nsf/eng/00008.html .