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Remote Alberta town to become first in Canada powered by geothermal energy

Aerial view of the Town of Rainbow Lake, Alberta. (Supplied)
Aerial view of the Town of Rainbow Lake, Alberta. (Supplied)

A remote town located in the northwest corner of Alberta could soon be the first in Canada to heat and power the community using geothermal.

"Rainbow Lake, especially at low depths, was identified as an area where unlike anywhere else in the province, we have the potential for power generation and other downstream activity that geothermal allows," said Dan Fletcher, the town's chief administrative officer.

The Town of Rainbow Lake has partnered with E2E Energy Solutions for the project.

"It's a big undertaking for sure," said Domenico Daprocida, President and CEO of E2E Energy Solutions. “Even being a small community it does make it a little bit more manageable but it’s quite an undertaking to produce heat and power for an entire community and deliver it to residents," he added.

Conventional geothermal taps into subterranean aquifers that are hot enough to produce power which Daprocida said are typically located in volcanic regions close to faults like California and Iceland.

"Conventional geothermal’s great, it's the most economic but in the other regions it doesn't work," he said.

That's where his company’s new patent-pending technology, the Enhanced Geothermal Reservoir Recovery System (EGRRS) comes in.

"It takes an existing aquifer, takes the fluid, takes it deeper, heats it up further and then produces it at the surface," said Daprocida.

"The town's plans as we move into this, first the pilot project has to work," said Fletcher. "It's a new technology that hasn’t been ground proven yet which we certainly have high hopes it will," he added.

They hope to have the town entirely powered and heated by geothermal renewable energy sources by 2028. The project will be done in three phases including the EGRRS pilot, construction of a surface geothermal facility, as well as the design and installation of the infrastructure required in town.

"We have a soft agreement, an understanding, that we would purchase electricity directly from a geothermal power plant at a reduced rate so there would be some savings immediately on electricity for people," said Fletcher.

He said it would also mean residents would no longer have high distribution costs for power. There would also be significant savings on the heating side.

"The cost to operate the gas co-op is $2.50 gigajoule with $2.64 levy for carbon tax which by 2030 will be over $8.00," Fletcher said. "So the immediate savings would come off the removal of that levy."

He said the project will also have other economic benefits for people who live in town.

"Our assessments for our housing, our land values are all tied and correlated directly to the price of oil, not to the historical trends for the rest of Alberta," Fletcher said.

The town was created in the mid-60s and has historically been known as an oil town.

"We were created under the New Town’s Act specifically for the purpose of creating a permanent workforce for the oil industry," said Fletcher.

He believes the transition to geothermal energy will help stabilize the town’s economy and potentially attract a new generation of people who are climate conscious.

"So we can effectively change the narrative for Rainbow Lake to not just be an oil town but be something bigger and new and better," he said.  

With files from CTV News Edmonton's Adel Ahmed Top Stories

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