Federal government funds $25 million geothermal project in Alberta

Minister Sohi annouces the details on the federally-funded geothermal project at PCL Construction in Nisku on Aug. 23. (Nykole King)

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Renewable energy is gaining traction in Canada with the federal government’s announcement to build the province’s first commercial-scale geothermal energy facility.

The announcement to fund the $25.45 billion facility was made by Minister of Natural Resources Amarjeet Sohi at PCL Construction in Nisku on Aug. 23.

“Things are looking up for Albertans and things are looking up for Alberta, and that started with our historic investment of $180 billion in the infrastructure we need to grow our economy and build a low-carbon economy,” Minister Sohi said.

Minister Sohi said it was an “exciting day” for Alberta as hours before his announcement the Keystone XL Pipeline moved passed another hurdle for building in Nebraska. The geothermal project, however, is “helping to ensure Alberta remains a leader in different types of energy.”

Named the “Alberta No. 1,” the facility pays tribute to the Leduc No. 1, Alberta’s first oil drilling site which marked the province as a leader in the oil and gas industry.

“The exciting thing is that [geothermal energy] is not new to the world, but it is new to Alberta,” said Catherine Hicks, chief geologist of Terrapin Geothermics. “We have significant hot water, we have a significant drilling experience, so we’re poised, we’re ready.”

Sean Collins, president of Terrapin Geothermics, said that the benefit to Alberta already being a leader in drilling means there will not need to be widespread retraining for the geothermal project.

Roger Keglowitsch, COO of Heavy Industrial at PCL Construction, said they are proud to partner on this sustainable infrastructure project. Potentially, they would be able to more than double the workers on the floor from 40 to over 100 because of this project.

The facility produces no carbon emissions and is the most efficient option for renewable energy as it can run nonstop. Annually, it will produce 5 megawatts of energy to hear about 6,800 in the Municipal District of Greenview, reducing the province’s carbon emissions by 68 million tons.

Geothermal energy facilities are believed to have potential in parts of B.C., Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario, though no large-scale facilities have yet been built in Canada.

From concept to construction, developing the facility is estimated to take three years. Geothermal facilities have a lifespan of decades and according to the Hicks, the Alberta No. 1 should be in operation for hundreds of years.