Alternative energy sources: What are they and are they viable?

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Alternative energy sources: What are they and are they viable?



What are the main alternate energy souces? And which ones stand the best chance of being economically viable?

Geothermal industry stalled in Canada despite bounty of resources

Geothermal power – where electricity is generated from turbines powered by hot water or steam from underground – has taken hold in two dozen countries around the world. Yet Canada, which has plentiful geothermal resources, especially in the West, remains a blank slate.

A lack of government policy support is blamed for keeping the industry from getting started here.

Indeed, while geothermal was seen as a possible alternative to the giant Site C dam in British Columbia, the provincial government gave the hydroelectric project the go-ahead in December.

Ironically, several companies that own geothermal projects in other countries trade their shares on the Toronto stock exchanges, raising money here from investors knowledgeable about the broader resource sector.

Alison Thompson, managing director of Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), spoke to The Globe and Mail about the current state of the industry and its longer-term potential.

Why has geothermal power not gained traction yet in Canada?

There are a number of factors. One is, there is plentiful [supply] of everything else: coal and nuclear and oil and gas and hydro. It really is human nature. Once you build something, you are not really looking around for other options.

Is part of the problem that people don’t understand geothermal power?

Politicians continue to believe misrepresentations of what geothermal is. [But] this ain’t your grandma’s geothermal. Things have changed radically.

[They say] it is too remote. That has changed. All kinds of other resource extraction has happened in Canada, and that has actually forged access into wilderness areas. We can take advantage of that footprint, so we are no longer too remote.

[They also say] it is too expensive. But in the 1980s, something called a binary geothermal power plant was developed. This type of power plant makes use of lower temperature water. It is still boiling, but it is not volcanic. Thirty years ago, that technology did not exist. You no longer need volcanic style resources to make geothermal power.

The other thing that has changed, is that a lot of exploration has been done in unconventional fields called hot sedimentary aquifers, which is where the oil and gas people operate. They have almost nine units of water come up for every one unit of petroleum, be it gas or oil. And those nine units of water or fluid are, in most cases, hot enough to use a binary geothermal power plant.

Are there off–the-shelf geothermal plants that could be put in any one of those locations?

Absolutely. There are more than ten different international vendors who sell them. It is a hotly competitive, very efficient, functioning market.

Don’t you still have to do a lot of drilling to find the right spot for a geothermal plant?

Just like oil and gas, you will never really know what you have until you drill. That’s fair. But the trend now in geothermal is that you spend a lot of time exploring before you drill. In the old days, because the exploration techniques weren’t even available, people got to the drilling too quickly. But now that you have a plethora of low-cost novel techniques to use, you can spend more money on exploration, and save money over all, because you have fewer dry holes.

Where are the best potential locations in Canada for geothermal power?

Mainly out west. B.C. is the crown jewel for sure, followed closely by the Yukon.


Better get cracking with these alternative energy sources  although right now I would get on with Site C, a renewable energy source

Climate change study says most of Canada's oil reserves should be left underground

Fully exploiting oilsands would contribute to catastrophic warming, scientists say


The study suggests no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the oilsands should be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)


Most of the Earth's fossil fuels will have to be left in the ground if the world is to avoid catastrophic global warming, according to a new study published in the scientific journal Nature.

And Canada's oil patch would have to be left mostly unexploited if the world is to avoid a rise in average temperature of two degrees or more, as almost every country in the world has committed to do. study suggests no more than 7.5 billion barrels of oil from the oilsands should be produced by 2050 — a mere 15 per cent of viable reserves and only about one per cent of total bitumen.


That's shocking. I only knew about geothermal for heating and cooling individual homes.

This hotel put it in as a retrofit so it can't be all that expensive to do.

Planet Traveler Hotel, Toronto

Many hotels boast “going green” but few reach the precedent that has been set by the Planet Traveler Hotel located in Toronto. Known as the “greenest hotel in North America,” this hotel implemented a geothermal system that is visible to its guests through glass walls. With solar panels and LED lighting throughout the building, the hotel saves 75% of energy compared to traditional hotels.

It's a hostel not a hotel, and it's retrofit, and wasn't developed by people with bottomless pockets. As I understand it they had to get permission to use the alley to access geothermal heat.

I wouldn't be surprised if 50%+ of the heating and cooling of Toronto could be accomplished through direct geothermal. That would be a huge energy savings.

All new buildings commercial and private should be required by law to use geothermal where it's accessible.


Site C, a renewable energy source?

The flooding of 10,000 hectares of land?

In violation of the unanimous opposition by the indigenous Nations of Treaty 8. Does Site C constitute an act of Genocide?
I dearly hope that the Indigenous Peoples here, take up the legal challenge.......

......talking to my neighbour who has C creek running right through his lot, with enough head to power the entire Territory, but illegal because there may be some danger to the trout?
Yet Site C has been approved?

What is clear to me is that the debate on energy far transcends just the matter of alternative energy...its deeprooted in the entire social political and economic culture enforced upon us...something which the bioregionalists of past decades well understood.

Something which present day so called progressive people no longer example of the degree to which Canadians have been so totally mesmorized by the dominant money culture?

Doug Woodard

Renewable electricity developing fast in South Australia:


Doug Woodard

Uruguay makes dramatic shift to nearly 95% electricity from clean energy:


Doug Woodard
epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

U.S. Solar Created More Jobs Than Oil And Gas Extraction

Over the last year, the solar industry added jobs twelve times faster than the rest of the economy, even more than the jobs created by the oil and gas extraction and pipeline sectors combined.

The Solar Foundation released its annual Solar Jobs Census Tuesday, and found that for the third straight year, the solar workforce grew 20 percent in the United States. According to the census, the industry added 35,052 jobs, elevating its grand total to 208,859. That builds on the 31,000 jobs added the year before, and 23,600 added the year before that.

“It’s incredible,” SolarCity CEO and co-founder Lyndon Rive told ThinkProgress. “The industry employs over 200 thousand people — more than the coal industry.”

The census found that even just the U.S. solar installation sector employed 77 percent more people than the coal mining industry. Installers have reported the most job growth by far, with project development, sales, and distribution also rising....


I live just south of Campbell River and the idea that BC Hydro is going to flood productive farm land instead of developing tidal resources is short sighted and criminal.

epaulo13 epaulo13's picture

..agreed kropotkin.

..scroll down this piece for the video.

Solar and Wind Just Did the Unthinkable

The sun and the wind continue to defy gravity. 

Renewables just finished another record-breaking year, with more money invested ($329 billion) and more capacity added (121 gigawatts) than ever before, according to new data released Thursday by Bloomberg New Energy Finance.

This wasn't supposed to happen. Oil, coal and natural gas bottomed out over the last 18 months, with bargain prices not seen in a decade. That's just one of a handful of reasons 2015 should have been a rough year for clean energy. But the opposite was true.


What are they and are they viable?

Well, they are many things and are they viable depends on what they're for.  

Moving the electrical grid over to alternatives is probably the easiest.  As a number of links here show moves to wind, solar and a lesser extend geothermal and tidal are increasing.  And depending on what is considered 'alternative' (is it just CO2 - so hydro? nuclear?) certain areas are already a long way there.  

But getting beyond that things get more and more complicated.  Consider buildings.  Many (most?) use gas or oil heating.  It would be fairly straightforward to switch small scale buildings to electrical, but that places more demand on the above mentioned grid.  

But Industrial heating is a different story.  High pressure steam boilers and other high heating loads use fossil fuels.  Electrical heating is not generally viable for this, in terms of output and safety issues.  Some can likely be switched to wood/biomass, but again there are limits.  

Agriculture.  Fertilizer, farm equipment, transportation and processing.  The latter two can fall under their own sectors, which leaves the first two.  Synthetic fertilizers can be replaced with natural, but there are yield hits to take with that.  Thus we would need more farmland to produce the same amount of food, with potentially more deforestation and other issues that go along with that.  Where is the balance?

Transportation:  One of the big ones.  While we're seeing continuous small improvements to fuel efficiency, vehicles that completely step away from fossil fuels are still struggling.  We can get there, but it won't be easy.  Passenger vehicles are just a part of the problem - once we tackle those you still need to address commercial, construction, and other heavy duty applications which will be even more difficult than cars.  And of course those green vehicles all depends on having a green grid to supply them. But again that's the easier part.  

The real challenge of transportation will be marine and aircraft transport.  There is simply nothing comparable to fossil fuels in terms of energy density that those sectors need.  The reports I read talk of having hydrogen powered aircraft - that's going to be a long time coming.  

The oil and gas sector itself.  This is primarily burning fuel to make more fuel.  Cut down on the demand, the rest will follow.  Consider it a double benefit of reducing fossil fuel use.  

This is the biggest issue I have with all those reports that claim "we can be fossil fuel free by 2050."  They just add up all the gigawatt hours being consumed, and estimate how much we would need to develop in alternative sources to match those GWh.  But not all GWh are created equal.  Energy quality is a major isssue - more so for some areas than others.  As with everything, the devil is in the details.  


Thanks for this!
While I disagree with you re natural agriculture vs. chemical yields, the key is transport!
And the solutions are political...a move to decentralize politically, economically and technologically, to make our (bio) regions more autonomous and self reliant...our only solution!


My pleasure.  Forgot to mention biofuel is another potential breakaway but using that on a large scale has it's own set of issues.