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Renewable Energy Inventory

Geothermal

Geothermal energy is heat from the earth. This heat generally increases as one digs deeper into the ground. Heat can be accessed by drilling or using pre-existing holes (mine shafts, exploration wells). Shallow systems for residential or commercial buildings using ground source heat pumps have limited application in the North. Cold ground temperatures in the bedrock of the Canadian Shield and permafrost are major limitations across much of the North.

There is considerable potential for geothermal energy from retired gold mine shafts under the city of Yellowknife. These mine tunnels and shafts are filling with water heated as high as 50 degrees Celsius and could provide a thermal reservoir for a district heat system that serves buildings in the downtown core. This project could provide as much as 20 MW of heating capacity.

A deep geothermal favourability map recently completed for the Northwest Territories indicates that there is a high potential that suitable temperatures to produce heat and power can be found at depths of two to three kilometres over a broad zone between Fort Simpson to Hay River. A pilot geothermal project that would provide 1 MW of electricity in Fort Liard is currently in the business plan development stage. Exploration drilling for natural gas in that region has already encountered water at 130 degrees Celsius.

In Yukon, interest in geothermal resources has primarily focused on heat pump systems associated with hot or warm aquifers. Haines Junction investigated the potential of using an artesian well (at a temperature of 16.9 degrees Celsius) for space heating in the community. The Town of Mayo has studied the potential of using two deep warm water wells to heat local government buildings. A 2.95 million dollar project has been initiated that will provide the First Nation of Na-cho Nyäk Dun Government House with energy-efficient, sustainable, and low-cost central heating. The system will also be expandable to serve other buildings in the community. Currently, the City of Whitehorse uses low-grade geothermal resources (warm ground water) to keep its water pipes from freezing in the winter.

Studies of the total potential of geothermal energy in Yukon are promising. Yukon is estimated to have 500 - 1,500 MW of geothermal energy available for electricity production.

No studies have been completed in Nunavut in relation to geothermal heat, although thermal hotspots are known to exist close to the surface that could be used in the future.

 
Photos courtesy of Patrick Kane/Up Here, Dianne Villesèche/www.ravenink.ca and ArcticNet. © 2016 A Northern Vision