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Geothermal energy: newly-launched project will bring enviro-energy production to Québec schools faster

November 18, 2020 - Source : NEWS

Polytechnique Montréal, Hydro-Québec, the Centre de services scolaire de Montréal, the Centre de services scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles, the Centre de services scolaire des Samares, Natural Resources Canada’s CanmetENERGY Research Centre, the Université de Montréal, and companies Versaprofiles and Marmott Energy have aligned forces with the Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec (MEQ) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve building energy efficiency. The above-mentioned partners today officially launched Project Alliance – an initiative focussed on the use of geothermal standing column wells (SCW) to efficiently supply energy to commercial and institutional buildings.

As part of Project Alliance, a geothermal energy system comprising five standing column wells (SCW) will be built in the area around Clé-des-Champs primary school, in Saint Augustin, Mirabel. (Credit: Massouh bioMEDia for Polytechnique Montréal)

As part of Project Alliance, a geothermal energy system comprising five standing column wells (SCW) will be built in the area around Clé-des-Champs primary school, in Saint Augustin, Mirabel. (Credit: Massouh bioMEDia for Polytechnique Montréal)

Polytechnique Montréal’s Professor Philippe Pasquier (Department of Civil, Geological, and Mining Engineering; Chaire de recherche en géothermie sur l'intégration des PCP dans les bâtiments institutionnels (unofficial transl: Geothermal Energy Research Chair – Use of SCW in Institutional Buildings) will lead the 10-researcher strong team. Over the course of Project Alliance, the latter group will create three successive demonstration projects in three Québec schools, as well as 24 complimentary research activities over five years. In fact, the team’s work is already underway, with field trials having lead to the construction of the first SCW at Mirabel’s École Clé-des-Champs primary school.

“SCWs have already been used for some 30 years in the North-Eastern United States. Their strength resides in the massive thermal power they create, which makes them a very cost-effective approach versus conventional geothermal energy production in use right now. The absence of demonstration projects and of experienced labour in Canada represents a major stumbling block to SCW deployment. We have great hope that this project will change that, while at the same time confirm SCW’s safety in terms of groundwater,” notes Polytechnique Montréal’s Professor Philippe Pasquier, Chaire de recherche en géothermie sur l'intégration des PCP dans les bâtiments institutionnels.

Guillaume Marchand, Projects Coordonnator, CSSMI Material Resources Services has this to say: “We’re proud to be partners with Project Alliance, which focuses on the use of standing column wells which will assist the development of geothermal energy technology, while demonstrating its effectiveness in real-world conditions. The Centre de services scolaire de la Seigneurie-des-Mille-Îles is on the cutting edge of energy efficient systems, and already uses geothermal heating systems for 15% of its school buildings. The latter energy system has permitted air quality in buildings to improve all while reducing energy costs by 35%, in comparison to conventional mechanical systems (which cost an estimated $55,000 per year on average, in Québec). Geothermal technology will no doubt help support our main focus – educational success.”

The Ministre de l’Éducation du Québec’s Jean-François Roberge notes that: “Reducing greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and improving energy efficiency in buildings is very important for us. I am proud to see that our educational institutions are at the heart of the solution, and are playing a major role in the democratization of innovative technologies. I am convinced of the soundness of these projects and efforts, which will certainly have a major impact on the way we think about building and buildings in the future.”

Danielle McCann, from the Ministre de l’Enseignement supérieur du Québec echoes Roberge’s sentiments, “I am thrilled that Polytechnique Montréal is enthusiastically addressing climate change by focusing on energy efficiency and the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. I am convinced that this research and development will result in concrete advances. I thank all those involved in this project, and wish them the utmost success.”

Project Alliance will benefit from $2.7 million in funding from several sources: Hydro-Québec ($1 million), and the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada – NSERC ($1.7 million). The Ministère de l’Éducation du Québec will look after costs associated with the construction of geothermal energy systems, while other partners will provide contributions equaling $1.1 million in labour costs.

NSERC Alliance funding contributions are intended to assist the establishment of collaborations between university researchers and private, public, and non-profit sector partner organizations, in order to produce new knowledge and accelerate the application of research results – namely by creating expertise and qualified labour within Canada.

Demonstrating SCW Effectiveness

Buildings are the third-highest emitters of greenhouse gases in Canada – largely due to their consumption of fossil fuels via energy use. In 2016, buildings contributed 81 megatonnes of GHG – surpassing the 78.5 megatonnes of GHG that the entire province of Québec emitted in that same year.

Over the years, numerous ideas to reduce the staggering amount of GHG emissions have been considered. Notably, the use of conventional geothermal system technologies has been one such solution, as this technology permits buildings to be heated and cooled via heat pump, coupled with closed-loop wells. The latter solution has proven difficult to adopt however, due to elevated construction costs and the density of urban buildings.

Contrary to conventional geothermal systems, SCW plunge into the earth to some 500 metres depth, and use immediately available groundwater. As a result, SCWs do not take up extensive space, and represent a promising option to reduce the power grid drain that Hydro-Québec faces during peak periods.

Despite this promise, the adoption of SCW technology has been slow in Canada, largely due to the system’s complexity, a lack of demonstration projects, a lack of qualified industry-specific labour, and the fear that groundwater will be negatively affected. Lead by Professor Pasquier, Project Alliance seeks to resolve and remove each one of these barriers to SCW adoption and use.

Geothermal systems that use standing column wells (SCW) can reduce energy consumption up to 60% in commercial and industrial buildings. Canadian commercial and industrial sector energy costs reached $20.6 billion in 2013.

Learn more

Chaire de recherche en géothermie sur l’intégration des puits à colonne permanentes (PCP) dans les bâtiments institutionnels web site (In French only)
Professor Philippe Pasquier' expertise
Department of Civil, Geological, and Mining Engineering web site (In French only)

Suggested Reading

January 28, 2011

Professor Philippe Pasquier receives grant from the 2010 Fondation de Polytechnique aux jeunes professeurs

January 9, 2014

Research projects by professors Julien Cohen-Adad, Frédéric Leblond and Philippe Pasquier supported by the CFI's John R. Evans Leaders Fund