Author: Siobhan McClelland, Canadian Geographic
Publish Date: Oct 9, 2013 Last Update: Sep 20, 2018
Geothermal resources are found across the country, especially in western and northern Canada.
Water exists under the Earth’s surface in a liquid form at very high temperatures and high pressure — several kilometres below the surface, water can reach 250 degrees Celsius or more. Once that water is brought to the surface, it enters a low-pressure chamber and turns into steam. Similar to other energy sources, the steam can be channelled through a turbine, causing it to spin and generate electricity.
In Canada, heat pumps are used to harness geothermal energy to heat and cool buildings, called direct use. Using either a mix of antifreeze and water, or water from a nearby lake or river, fluid is circulated throughout buildings through pipes, like a conventional hot-water system. In larger buildings, the heating or cooling is usually transferred to forced-air ducting through heat exchangers. Often, once the fluid is used, pipes return the fluid to the body of water it was taken from.
In Toronto, more than 100 buildings, including the Air Canada Centre and Metro Toronto Convention Centre, use an open-loop air conditioning system, gathering water from Lake Ontario.
Though geothermal energy is renewable and more environmentally friendly than other sources, there are some issues. The water extracted from the ground contains small amounts of carbon dioxide, hydrogen sulphide, methane and ammonia.
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