Friday's announcement of the Federal Government allotting $25 million towards a geothermal project caught many in the southeast by surprise, but it's a project that's been well in the making for a while now. Deep Earth Energy, the company that be drilling and building the project, and the city of Estevan have been in talks for a number of months now.
"Kristen Marcia, the CEO of Deep Earth Energy, she's been to council a number of times, and I'd like to take this opportunity to thank her for all her hard work to bring this to fruition," says Estevan Mayor Roy Ludwig. "We're very happy for her and her company, and I think for small green energy projects, I think this will be awesome."
The land for the power plant will be just south of Torquay, and drilling started back in November. The plant five megawatt facility originally planned may some expansion thanks to the government grant.
With the future of the carbon tax becoming more and more of a reality as we get closer towards the date it comes to effect in April, the start of a green energy project is important towards the future of energy production in Saskatchewan.
"We look at this as a huge positive, I think this is the start of five megawatts and hopefully we'll continue to see more and that'll help bring more employment to our area, and if we can continue with the clean coal technology on unit six and Shand, I think it will be a win-win for green energy in our community."
The facility is supposed to be integrated into the grid already in place, and with the three major power plants in southeast Saskatchewan already, this should not put anyone's jobs in danger.
"The five megawatts will go right into the grid in the Torquay area which will be great, but again it all contributes to the overall grid."
On the topic of jobs, the majority if the positions created by this new facility is going to be during the construction phase of the project, although there will be some positions for maintenance of the facility as well.
"This is a busy facility whether it's actually building the plant or the sub surface drilling, the interconnection, there's a hub of activity, and that's a great thing," says President and CEO of Deep Earth Energy Kirsten Marcia. "When it's actually up and running, there's the upside and a downside to this is that it doesn't take a lot of people to keep these facilities running, they're really really reliable technology."
"They run 24-7, once they're running they just hum away, and so the downside is that they won't employ a ton of people once they're running, but for geothermal one of the benefits of that is that our operating and maintenance costs are very low."
Despite the lack of long term jobs, there is opportunity for people in the oil, gas, and coal sectors to transfer over to the maintenance of the new facility, and drilling in the oil and gas industry is actually what made this new green energy project possible.
"Part of the story that I love is that we wouldn't even know that geothermal resource existed if it weren't for the oil and gas industry. When you walk out south of Torquay where this project is located, the last thing you think of is geothermal. You don't see geysers or hot springs, the only way you would know that there's a geothermal resource there is if someone had already drilled it."
Despite the area already being drilled in, there is no oil reserves and will leave the oil field unaffected.
"This area has been simply ignored because it doesn't have hydro-carbon and so through geo-science and collaboration between our team and with support from our provincial government and the research that is done every day within our province, we were able to determine that this was a fantastic geothermal resource good enough for power production."