The chief economist at Alberta Treasury Branches says it’s time for the province to deploy its formidable underground drilling expertise to produce geothermal energy.
“I think Alberta is perfectly situated to make the technology work,” said Todd Hirsch of ATB Financial. “All the geothermal energy experts say it’s all wrong for Alberta. You have to go down so deep to get any heat. Well, actually, we have experience drilling through four miles (6.4 kilometres) worth of rock to get at other things that are valuable.”
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Describing geothermal as “a perfectly green, perfectly renewable source of electricity,” Hirsch pointed to the export potential Alberta could tap if it proved the technology on home ground. “I think geothermal energy might be one that Alberta wants to champion specifically because it ‘doesn’t work here,’” he said. “If we can make it work here in Alberta, then it’s a cinch to sell the technology to the Chinese and the Germans and everyone elsewhere geothermal ‘doesn’t work.’”
Craig Dunn, chief geologist with Calgary-based Borealis GeoPower, called it a “massive hurdle” that Alberta has no geothermal development program like British Columbia’s. The result is that geothermal producers must compete with oil and gas companies for subsurface permits.
“With a lack of a geothermal policy for development in Alberta, it makes a number of developers, including ourselves, apprehensive about approaching that market.”
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