Coal, oil and gas - their days are numbered. They're non-renewable and, especially in the case of coal and oil, really dirty. One part of Canada, which conveniently just happens to be my part, is blessed with another source of limitless, clean and relatively cheap energy - geothermal. It's the upside of being part of the Pacific "Rim of Fire."
When gas prices were cheap (back when George w. Bush was first appointed monarch), government and industry dragged their heels on developing this resource. Times change and, if you've noticed, so do prices at the gas pump.
The map shows BC's geothermal resource belts and the red swathes are the prime territory for letting our own planet earth get us off the fossil fuel habit. Studies show that it's a win-win-win proposition.
The US Department of Energy reports that geothermal electricity comes in at under 4 cents per kWh compared to between 5-6 cents for wind and 7-8.5 cents for biomass energy. Recent technology advancements have dropped geothermal costs by close to 25% and a further 20% drop is forecast by 2020.
Unlike wind power, geothermal provides a constant supply of energy and the existing technology is said to achieve a 95-98% efficiency. It's not affected by weather or climate changes.
Geothermal power provides a significant environmental advantage over fossil fuel power sources in terms of air emissions because its production releases no nitrogen oxides (NOx) or sulfur dioxide (SO2), and much less CO2 than fossil-fuelled power. The reduction in nitrogen and sulfur emissions reduces acid rain, and the reduction in CO2 emissions reduces the contribution to global climate change.
A typical 100 MW plant will reduce CO2 emissions by 600,000 tonnes/yr, and NOx and SO2 emissions by 120,000 tonnes/yr compared to a natural gas plant of equal size. (Western GeoPower Corp, 2003). Emission reductions would obviously be far greater yet when compared to oil or coal-fueled plants.
And whereas oil and natural gas prices are expected to keep increasing, geothermal is expected to become less expensive.
Two demonstration projects are now underway to establish the commercial viability of large-scale geothermal production. At one drill site, they're encountering subsurface temperatures of 275 C.