Building a department store powered by geothermal and solar

La Maison Simons is working to convert their stores across Canada to net-zero

The clothes that we wear have a far-reaching impact on the planet – from the extraction of the raw materials and manufacturing process all the way down to the mounds of textile waste from fast fashion and other discarded clothing. With all of these environmental concerns, it’s easy to overlook the energy requirements of the buildings that house their retail locations.

Seven years ago, Quebec City-based department store La Maison Simons set out to construct a building that generates as much energy on-site annually as it consumes. Teaming up with Oxford Properties, the shopping centre landlord for its Galeries de la Capitale location, the company began mapping out the different technologies required to become the first major net-zero retail store in the country.

The retailer decided to first road-test some of its plans at the Londonderry Simons store in Edmonton, installing a sizeable 636 kilowatt solar array and making numerous energy efficiency upgrades throughout the building. It led to a building that is 30-40% more energy efficient than an average Simons store, and where half the energy is generated on-site through renewables. It also benefited from an Alberta government green incentive program that covered 25% of the cost of the solar panels.

Simons applied many of the lessons learned from the Edmonton project in designing its net-zero Galeries location, which opened in March 2018 in Quebec City. It doubled the amount of solar power covering the parking lot and roof, while drilling 27 geothermal boreholes into the ground under the parking lot for geothermal heating and cooling. A high-tech LED lighting program combined with an energy-efficient heating, ventilation and air conditioning system reduced energy consumption by 60% compared to its older location.

Buoyed by positive feedback from customers, the company is now exploring plans for several potential new net-zero retail locations throughout Quebec. MORE

Building the country’s first geothermal power plant

A Saskatchewan town built on coal is ready for a future powered by clean energy

Canada’s national grid draws more than 80% of its power from emissions-free sources – a category encompassing everything from nuclear to hydropower to wind power. By comparison, the U.S. grid is under 40% emissions-free, providing Canada with a durable competitive advantage as the world looks to reduce carbon emissions and build up a low-carbon economy.

This remarkable Canada-wide figure is set to climb to 90% by 2030, due to a federal phase-out of traditional coal-fired electricity that will cut carbon pollution by an estimated 12.8 million tonnes. Coal-reliant provinces like Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia will need to find replacement sources of electricity, and fast.

For the southern Saskatchewan town of Estevan, coal has been king since the town’s founding. Often referred to as “Energy City,” the area around the town is home to a coal mine that feeds multiple local coal-fired power plants. With an economic transition away from coal now looking all but inevitable over the next decade or so, some entrepreneurs are looking to tap another local energy source lying underneath the ground: geothermal energy.

The most popular method for harnessing geothermal energy involves the use of steam from hot water located under the earth’s surface to spin a turbine to generate electricity. Unlike other countries located along the hot-earth zone known as the Pacific Rim of Fire, Canada has been slow to tap this nascent emissions-free source of electricity.

But things are looking rosier for the geothermal industry of late, with a private Saskatchewan company, DEEP, currently building the country’s first geothermal power plant outside of Estevan.

The company has already completed drilling the 3,530 metre test well, which will eventually generate five megawatts of power from the hot sedimentary aquifer below. That’s enough electricity to power 5,000 homes and offset 27,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year, according to DEEP.

Slated to begin operations in 2021, the project will create 100 jobs during construction. Even more excitingly, the power plant has the potential to steadily expand outwards. It will eventually generate up to 200 megawatts of clean power and create more jobs in the future. Many of the same skillsets used in the oil and gas sector overlap significantly with geothermal development, offering substantial employment opportunities for workers looking to transition out of the volatile oil and gas sector. MORE


Geothermal energy is taking off globally, so why not in Canada?

Image result for the narwhal: Geothermal energy is taking off globally, so why not in Canada?The world’s largest geothermal power plant in Iceland. Photo: WikiImages / Pixabay

Despite being one of the most well-positioned countries in the world to capitalize on geothermal energy, Canada seems stuck at the starting line. But behind the scenes, a few game-changing developments hint at a new horizon for this underestimated renewable energy.

New research released in April estimates the value of the global geothermal energy industry will grow to $9 billion by 2025, up from $4 billion in 2018.

While this growth is translating to geothermal heated greenhouses in the Netherlands, a zero-emissions power plant in Italy and geothermal chocolate bars in the Philippines, it hasn’t meant much for Canada — despite the country’s substantial documented potential.

Geothermal energy comes from natural heat in the earth’s crust. Steam from hot spots near volcanic ranges, such as those in B.C., can be used to spin turbines to generate electricity, while warm water from cooler areas can be used as direct energy to heat homes, melt snow or grow food in greenhouses, like the Icelanders do.

The form of renewable energy, which provides uninterrupted baseload energy as opposed to intermittent alternatives such as wind and solar that rely on the weather, seems an obvious choice for many provinces and territories looking to increase sources of electricity while also decreasing greenhouse gas emissions.

Thus far, Canada is the only country on the Ring of Fire, a tectonic zone where the earth’s heat is abundant, that doesn’t have a single commercial geothermal power plant in operation. MORE