As a member of Canada's Energy BOT Squad here's what you need to know.
I'm super pumped. Energy doesn't get any more "underground" than geothermal, and that's true for a few reasons. The first is that it's literally true: geothermal energy takes advantage of the fact that the ground is naturally insulated, retaining heat. The second is that, while I'm feeling toasty and comfortable in the ground, mine's not exactly the most popular energy source around: geothermal energy is still fairly uncommon in Canada.
When I warm myself up in the ground, I'm using "low-temperature" geothermal: basically re-absorbing the heat that the Earth has soaked up from the sun. "High temperature" geothermal, though, is less common in Canada.
That might not be an altogether bad thing. For places like Iceland and California, which use high-temperature geothermal, the most sources are geysers or volcanoes, and it's usually better to keep your distance from something that hot. I like to stay warm, but I'm not crazy.
At its heart, geothermal energy is all about heat: the heat trapped under the ground by soil and rock. So it's no surprise that there are geothermal pumps in homes around the country, keeping Canadians warm. And don't forget the hot springs.
You'd have a better time trying to ride a geothermal pump than you would trying to use geothermal power for transportation. I'll stick to snoozing.
Though there are ways of generating electricity with geothermal power, Canada doesn't have any geothermal power plants at the moment. Instead, aside from a few demonstration projects across the country, Canadians mostly use geothermal energy to soak in.
Not every area in Canada is able to use geothermal energy, but where higher-temperatures (over -10°C) are close enough to the surface — such as in British Columbia and a few areas in and around Alberta and Yukon — you might find me. Remote northern communities could be the first to benefit from geothermal development in Canada.
I'm still pretty much a homeBOT, so the only geothermal power you're likely to find would be in the basements of Canadian homes in BC, Alberta, Manitoba and Ontario, where heat exchange systems let me do my work. Not that soaking in a hot spring isn't a great idea too.
How does it work?
There are two kinds of geothermal heat pumps: "closed loop" and "open loop." In a closed loop system, fluid is constantly pumped through a set of pipes to draw heat from the earth. An open loop system draws fluid from water sources around the home.
Even though I can keep myself nice and toasty, I can also stay cool by reversing the heat pumps. After all: with the ground maintaining a relatively constant temperature, sometimes the surface is a lot hotter than the earth. Cool.
In Canada, I'm happy to stick around the home. Worldwide, though, there are geothermal power plants that are much more powerful. In Iceland, for example, geothermal power produces almost a quarter of the country's total energy.
Next: That's it! You've found us all! The Energy BOT Squad is assembled, with enough energy to power the entire country. They're keeping our homes warm, our vehicles moving and our electrical outlets humming with power. Sure, some are providing more power than others. But what does it mean that the squad's finally all together?