Moose Jaw wants to go deeper on how it might use geothermal energy for its agriculture sector.
To that end, city council approved last Monday $54,186 to pay for an economic assessment, the goal of which is determining if the area’s underground hot water supply can support production at its Agri-Food Industrial Park.
“It’s all about identifying the opportunity: Do we have the water? Does it make sense with what we’re wanting to do?” economic development manager Jim Dixon said.
Formally called a Preliminary Economic Assessment, the process is being led by long-time geology consultant Stephen Halabura. His past work includes finding underground potash reserves in the province and helping BHP Billiton set up its mining sites.
Moose Jaw contracted Halabura as a consultant for the assessment.
Part of his work will be identifying “potential investors and agencies that would fund (a geothermal site),” Dixon said. He’ll also be determining potential power output from the geothermal energy.
Halabura declined to comment on the project in its early stages.
Dixon summarized the goal of the assessment is identifying the resource and how it can be used.
In terms of agriculture, Dixon said that would likely be helping to grow food, perhaps even on the scale of a “greenhouse-kind of opportunity,” adding there’s potential for using geothermal power to heat other buildings in the park.
Located on the southeast side of the city, Moose Jaw’s Agri-Food Industrial Park is 700 acres of unoccupied land; 75 acres of it are already serviced.
The city is pitching it as prime real estate for industrial food producers and manufacturers, especially those in the pulses and wet pea sectors, given the area’s proximity to national rail lines and the Trans-Canada highway.
Dixon served as a Moose Jaw city councillor in the 1980s, when council started exploring the feasibility of tapping into the region’s underground, geothermal-heated water supply.
That eventually led to the construction of the city’s mineral water spa, which uses the same water at its pool.
He referenced and touted the economic benefits that venture brought to the city after construction finished in 1996.
The money covering the economic assessment is from Moose Jaw’s Land Reserve Fund, which Dixon said the city also uses to purchase land, do land enhancements and improve city infrastructure.
Geothermal power refers to harnessing geothermal energy from heat and/or water deep underground. The naturally-high temperatures come from chemical reactions below the earth’s crust. A geothermal power conversion set-up would convert that heat into electrical power by bringing the heat to the earth’s surface with water or steam.
It could also be used for heat, like Moose Jaw’s Grant Hall Hotel, which uses a geothermal-energy heating system.
Evan Radford, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Regina Leader-Post, The Leader-Post