Feds fund geothermal energy search

The federal government will contribute $126,000 over two years to support research into the Yukon's geothermal energy potential. The funding will come from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor.

The federal government will contribute $126,000 over two years to support research into the Yukon’s geothermal energy potential.

The funding will come from the Canadian Northern Economic Development Agency, or CanNor. Yukon MP Ryan Leef made an announcement about the planned research in Whitehorse on Thursday.

The Yukon government will contribute $18,000 and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association will invest $13,150. An additional $10,850 will come from other partners, including the Takhini Hot Pools, for a total of $168,000 allocated to the project.

The aim of the research is to develop a series of maps that identify and analyze potential geothermal energy sites in the Yukon. The information collected will be available to both communities and businesses.

The territorial Department of Energy will take the lead on the work. In addition to kicking in $18,000 in funding, the department will also offer in-kind support in the form of expertise from the Energy Solutions Centre and the Yukon Geological Survey.

“Reliable, affordable and secure sources of energy are crucial to our economy,” said Leef. “This is really going to show what our territory has in terms of geothermal potential.”

Work on the mapping project began in December, and is slated for completion by March 31, 2016.

Geothermal energy involves harnessing the natural heat below the earth’s surface to generate power. It’s regarded as one of the cleanest potential sources of energy available. The Canadian Geothermal Energy Association recently told The Globe and Mail that the Yukon is one of the most promising jurisdictions in Canada for geothermal, second only to B.C.

There will be no field work involved at this stage. Instead, researchers will compile existing data to establish targets for future exploration. They will scrutinize known fault zones and hot springs, and other likely geothermal hotspots. The project team will gather data from all possible sources.

“We’re going to incorporate everything that people will give us,” said Cathy Cottrell of the energy branch. They will use data from geologists, exploratory oil wells, the territory’s water well database and more.

“Ultimately this project could lead to Yukon producing geothermal energy for residents, as well as for industrial projects,” like mines, said energy minister Scott Kent at the briefing. He added that harnessing geothermal could provide Yukoners with clean local energy sources, new employment in the communities, and reduced fuel and heating costs.

Existing geothermal activity in the territory is limited to its use as a source of direct heat, not power generation. But the possibility of generating power from subterranean heat sources has been touted before.

At the end of January, CanNor announced $247,310 in funding to assist the Dena Nezziddi Development Corporation with the second phase of a project to study geothermal potential in the Ross River area.

A geothermal heat pump was also included in the initial plans for the new F.H. Collins High School, but was dropped after other costs for the school project grew.

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