Geothermal

Six Natural Resource Projects That Got it Right in 2017

 Sandvik DD422iE for underground all electric mine

Being an environmental journalist at this point in history can be a bit, well, depressing. It often means bringing negative stories to light: stories about government failing to balance development with environmental protection, or about companies getting away with harmful practices, or about Indigenous peoples’ rights being set aside in the name of progress.

But it’s not all bad news out there.

And DeSmog Canada wants to celebrate those people and organizations that go out of their way to do development right — those that build their plans around meaningful consultation with Indigenous peoples, minimize environmental harms even at a cost to their business and raise the bar for their industries.

We’ve gathered a list of some of the projects we want to fist-bump this year. We’re not suggesting they’re perfect; any large extractive project comes with an environmental cost. But these are projects that rise above the rest in their efforts to minimize that cost.

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B.C. Flooding Farmland for Site C is Economic Folly

Site C farmland Ken Boon Garth Lenz

As many countries move away from big hydro projects, B.C.’s government must decide whether to continue work on the Site C dam. The controversial megaproject would flood a 100-kilometre stretch of the Peace River Valley and provide enough power for the equivalent of about 500,000 homes.

The B.C. Utilities Commission, an independent body responsible for ensuring British Columbians pay fair energy rates, found the dam is likely behind schedule and over budget, with completion costs estimated at more than $10 billion. In a “high impact” scenario, it may go over budget by as much as 50 per cent.

Site C Dam Over Budget, Behind Schedule and Could be Replaced by Alternatives: BCUC Report

Site C construction September 2016

A highly anticipated review of B.C.’s Site C dam has found the project is likely to be over budget and behind schedule and alternative energy sources could be built for an equal or lower unit energy cost.

The report from the B.C. Utilities Commission released Wednesday confirmed many of the concerns that have been raised about the project for years.

The panel found BC Hydro’s mid-load forecast for electricity demand in B.C. “excessively optimistic” and noted there are risks that could result in demand being less than even BC Hydro’s lowest demand scenario.

The panel was “not persuaded that the Site C project will remain on schedule” and found “the project is not within the proposed budget of $8.335 billion.”

Currently, completion costs may be in excess of $10 billion, the report read.

The panel concluded it would be too costly to suspend the dam and potentially re-start construction later and focused its efforts on laying out in detail the consequences of either abandoning or completing the dam. The decision now rests with the B.C. government.

Geothermal Would Create 15 Times More Permanent Jobs Than Site C, Panel Told As BCUC Hearings Draw to Close

geothermal National Renewable Energy Lab

Opportunities provided by 21st century renewables, such as geothermal, wind and solar, have either been ignored or the costs over-inflated in BC Hydro documents justifying construction of the Site C dam, the B.C. Utilities Commission Site C Panel was told by presenters during two days of technical briefings.

Speaker after speaker pinpointed holes and inaccuracies in BC Hydro’s math, claiming the bottom line was skewed in favour of building the $8.8-billion dollar dam on the Peace River.

Geothermal power projects are thriving in Oregon and Idaho and the geology does not instantly change at the B.C. border, said Alison Thompson, chair of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), pointing to the number of hot springs and drilled natural gas wells in the province, which indicate the presence of geothermal resources.

So, how much has BC Hydro spent in the last 15 years in exploratory drilling for geothermal resources?” she asked.

Q&A with Andrew Weaver: The Future of B.C. Energy Beyond Site C and LNG

BC Green Party Leader Andrew Weaver

B.C. Green Party leader Andrew Weaver was never a big fan of LNG, he says, because he never thought the BC Liberal plan for a multi-billion domestic natural gas export industry was even possible. But that was the past: when it comes to the future of clean energy in British Columbia, what is possible?

In the following interview with journalist Christopher Pollon, the climate scientist turned politician expounds on LNG, Site C, and the imminent arrival of energy alternatives like geothermal, “pumped storage” hydro and more.

Weaver conducted this interview via speakerphone as he drove a broken microwave oven to a Victoria-area depot for recycling. Being Green, it seems, is a full-time gig.

If Saskatchewan Can Build a Geothermal Power Plant, Why Can’t B.C.?

Geothermal Energy

While news of Saskatchewan’s plan for a small geothermal power plant was met with excitement by renewable energy advocates,  experts say British Columbia is far better situated to capitalize on the technology yet has failed to do so.

It should be a little bit of a shock that a less good resource is being developed in Saskatchewan over a world-class resource in B.C.,” said Alison Thompson, chair and co-founder of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA).

B.C. is located on the Pacific Ring of Fire, a geothermal hot zone. Maps produced by CanGEA found B.C. has enough geothermal potential to power the entire province.

There are geothermal projects all up the coast but they stop at the border. There’s nothing in B.C.,” Thompson said.

This is clearly not technical, not economic. This is policy driven.”

Meet the First Nation Above the Arctic Circle That Just Went Solar

Solar panels in Old Crow, Yukon

Across Canada’s north, diesel has long been the primary mode of providing year-round electricity to remote communities — but with the advent of small-scale renewables, that’s about to change.

Northern communities were already making strides toward a renewable energy future, but with $400 million committed in this year’s federal budget to establish an 11-year Arctic Energy Fund, energy security in the north has moved firmly into the spotlight.

This level of support shows positive commitment from the Canadian government on ending fossil fuel dependency in Indigenous communities and transitioning these communities to clean energy systems,” said Dave Lovekin, a senior advisor at the Pembina Institute.

DeSmog Canada Named as Finalist for Two Canadian Online Publishing Awards

The 2016 finalists for the Canadian Online Publishing Awards have been announced and Tweet: .@DeSmogCanada Nominated for 2 Canadian Online Publishing Awards alongside @MacleansMag @HuffPostCanada @TorontoStar http://bit.ly/2cqQQNbDeSmog Canada has made the cut in two categories — alongside Maclean’s Magazine, the Toronto Star, The Huffington Post, the Winnipeg Free Press and the National Observer.

In the Best Blog category, DeSmog Canada is nominated for its coverage of the indigenous youth suicide epidemic and its relationship to natural resource development.

Also featured in the nomination is DeSmog Canada’s coverage of the Mount Polley mine disaster and the provincial government’s failure to levy any charges or fines against the company responsible and our coverage of Canada’s enormous untapped geothermal energy potential.

In the Best Video Content category, Disturbing the Peace: The Story of the Site C Dam has been selected as a finalist.

Geothermal Picks Up Steam With Alberta Proposal to Retrofit Abandoned Oil Wells

It’s been an awfully rough year for Alberta, with the resource-rich province currently grappling with a 31.5 per cent drop in oil prices, 39 per cent increase in unemployment and a quadrupling in the number of abandoned oil and gas wells.

But for many advocates of geothermal energy, that particular trio of stats represents a massive window of opportunity for the province, especially when paired with the government’s recent decision to phase out coal-fired power and generate 30 per cent of its electricity via renewables by 2030.

Tweet: Retrofit old oil&gas wells to capture #geothermal energy, put 1,000’s of tradespeople back to work http://bit.ly/2bUXeIA #ableg #cdnpoliIn short: retrofit old oil and gas wells to capture geothermal energy, putting thousands of tradespeople back to work, attracting billions in investments and producing baseload renewable power for the entire province.

The market timing is better than it’s ever been, the economic forces are better than they’ve ever been and I think we’re poised for a true boom,” says Sean Collins, partner at Terrapin Geothermics.

Interest in the idea has been growing in recent months, receiving a major boost in early August with MLA Shaye Anderson’s formal proposal to convert an inactive well to capture direct heat for an 8,000 square foot greenhouse near Leduc.

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