by Jane Bratun
GEOTHERMAL DRILLING PROGRAM SCHEDULED FOR FALL
As noted on the DEEP Earth Energy Production Corp. (DEEP) website, geothermal energy is the only renewable power that is independent of wind and sunshine and produces continuous power made available by an energy producer (baseload). This green energy source provides zero carbon-based fuel consumption and leaves a small environmental footprint (a small surface area that does not affect bird migration). Geothermal power facilities produce heat that can supply power to greenhouses and fish farms, as well as facilitate food processing. With proper heat reservoir management, geothermal resources will run indefinitely.
DEEP, headquartered in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, and headed by Kirsten Marcia, Director, President and CEO, plans to use existing technology to harness high-quality geothermal resources to establish a renewable baseload power supply. The company’s long-term goal is to develop power facilities that develop 100 to 200 megawatts of baseload power from small, repeatable 5-10 megawatt (MW) power plants. Each 5 MW facility will power approximately 5,000 households.
The DEEP project is located in southeastern Saskatchewan, a few miles north of the United States border, near the city of Estevan. Analysis of thousands of public well records in southern Saskatchewan revealed a vast, “pancake-like” hot sedimentary aquifer (HSA) greater than 3,000 metres deep at the base of the Williston Basin. This aquifer has a lateral continuity
of over hundreds of kilometres, is 100-150 metres thick, and has a measured temperature of greater than 120 degrees Celsius. The Williston Basin HSA may support a 200 MW capacity or more from about 20 plants of 5-10 MW capacity each.
DEEP has secured a Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) contract with SaskPower, which supplies electricity for over half a million Saskatchewan customers and can also connect to the grids in Manitoba, Alberta, and North Dakota. This is the first PPA issued for a geothermal power facility in Canada. According to the DEEP website, Saskatchewan has seen a 16% increase in energy demand over the past five years and SaskPower’s demand for renewable power is growing.
Another primary challenge for SaskPower is meeting Federal Greenhouse Gas Emission regulations – a challenge, because its electricity generation is dominated by coal-fueled (35%) and natural gas-fueled (40%) plants. In November, 2015, SaskPower announced that the province will produce 50% of its power from renewable sources by 2030. This means tripling the percentage of renewable electricity generation capacity in Saskatchewan due to projected power growth requirements. Renewables represent 1,100 MW of SaskPower’s 4,400 MW provincial capacity. By 2030, the province will require a total of 3,500 MW of renewable power generation.
GeothermEx, a Schlumberger Company [SLB-NYSE], geothermal consulting and services company, provided several drilling designs for the DEEP well. The selected acquisition process as subsurface conditions required a relocation.
With the first permitting and project planning complete, DEEP is starting the drilling and testing phase of the Bankable Feasibility Study. The successful addition of renewable baseload power will directly benefit all residents of Saskatchewan and assist SaskPower in achieving its goal of 50% renewable power generation by the year 2030.
In a related development, Kirsten Marcia has been appointed a Director at Large of the newly-formed Geothermal Canada organization. In 2017, a group of like-minded individuals felt the time was ripe to resurrect the original, scientifically oriented society with a new name and renewed vigour. As geothermal energy gains prominence in Canada, professionals, students, governments and other interested people needed a venue to discuss technical and academic aspects of the industry. On February 1, 2018, CGA was reborn as the Pan Canadian Society for Geothermal Research, Innovation, and Collaboration, colloquially known as Geothermal Canada (www.geothermalcanada.org).
A LOOK AT SOLAR PANEL BENEFITS AND CONCERNS
Go Solar Group, headquartered in Utah, is a family owned, full service solar company. The company began as a non-profit organization dedicated to delivering solar-based clean energy to Ugandan villages and has since relied on residential solar installations in Utah and Reno, Nevada to help micro-finance solar solutions abroad.
In his papers, The Environment Runs on Solar Power. Here’s How We Can Too, and Using Solar Power to go Green, Scott Cramer, Go Solar’s President, states that as non-renewable resources become more scarce, basic economic principles mean costs will skyrocket. Solar energy will not increase in price, nor will the technology to leverage it. One of the key benefits of opting for solar power, he says, is cost savings for homeowners, businesses, and lower income areas. And, solar power provides a fixed rate for utility bills, so owners can predict their everyday use. He notes that “community gardens,” which, in this case, are community solar projects, provide a viable solar power option for lower income areas and a sustainable model for charitable solar projects. He says that while few private entities have embraced this delivery model, US government dollars do fund some solar power projects.
Cramer says as more people join the solar revolution, communities will benefit. For most, the price is the main reason they don’t choose solar power. However, community solar allows more individuals the ability to afford renewable energy.
Cramer points out in his paper that hazardous waste concerns make the recycling of solar panels necessary. If solar arrays aren’t recycled they end up in landfills, and toxins in the panels could leach out. For example, a byproduct, silicon tetrachloride, harms the environment. It is important to manage these materials both at the beginning and at the end of each solar panel life cycle.
An average solar power system lasts 25 plus years, but at the end of that life cycle, panels inevitably need proper disposal. The boom for solar installations began in 2010 for the US. This means that most Americans won’t recycle panels until about 2035. Most solar panels aren’t losing their efficiency yet, but they can sustain damage. Damaged panels need proper recycling now, not in 17 years.
Processes that treat the toxic wastes are expensive, and most manufacturers in the US aren’t required to follow them. Recycling in Europe is a requirement. The US, on the other hand, has an unregulated market. This means that recycling must be cost-effective. Less than 11% of each panel has salvageable metals, so recycling isn’t cost effective. This has made PV recycling a challenge in the US.
Cramer points out that supporting manufacturers that take these expensive precautionary measures will help reduce toxins. With no ecolabel to help customers, Cramer notes the PV Module Reliability Scorecard, which is available online, contains a volunteer-based database. It provides a solar scorecard and rates major manufacturers that have volunteered information. The scorecard is available each year, and the same companies do not always participate. The average 2016-2017 score was 36. Choosing a manufacturer with a high-to-average score will help make a change in the level of impact on the environment. The Go Solar Group uses New Jersey-based Axitec, LLC German engineered panels for their Utah and Nevada installations. When Axitec last participated in the database project, they received a score of 55.
Although nationally mandated programs don’t exist, states are trying to require solar panel recycling. In 2021, Washington will start requiring manufacturers to have end-of-life recycling programs. To that end, Recycle PV, provides solar panel recycling services to the nation and pays to recycle panels without broken glass. Broken glass panels are recycled for a fee.
With an eye toward a national recycling program, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) also has a national recycling program. They have partnered with several recycling companies and will partner with others. The recycling price depends on the type of solar panels involved and how many. Most of these recycling programs are between the recycler and the solar panels manufacturer. If the solar panel manufacturer doesn’t recycle, owners can call the recycling company directly. As recycling increases, the price will decrease.