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Geothermal project makes headway

Geothermal energy could save the City of Timmins money on heating and air-conditioning costs. It could also be used as a tool to attract new businesses.

Geothermal energy could save the City of Timmins money on heating and air-conditioning costs. It could also be used as a tool to attract new businesses.

A proposed geothermal project would allow the city to reuse mine water from the abandoned McIntyre and Hollinger mines and convert it into an energy source.

Project partners include the City of Timmins, Porcupine Joint Venture (formerly Kinross Gold Corp.) and the Timmins and District Hospital.

In the near future, the city expects to receive an announcement on its funding applications, which were made to the Federation of Canadian Municipalities’ Green Municipal Funds program, FedNor and the Northern Ontario Heritage Fund.

The funding will be used for a feasibility study that will be conducted by FVB District Energy Inc. of Toronto at the cost of $216,465.

“The company will conduct a feasibility study on the use of geothermal energy for the Timmins and District Hospital or the McIntyre Arena,” says Mark Jensen, city director of planning. “We still have to decide which facility we will recommend for the feasibility study before the project proceeds. But we are hoping for a funding announcement in early October from all three of the funding agencies. If we receive the funding, then council will support moving forward on the feasibility study.”

The city will not be required to provide any funding for the study as the other two project partners will be providing both in-kind and financially to cover the private-sector contribution required to secure government funding. The city is providing in-kind project management.

“There are potential cost savings for both the hospital and the McIntyre Arena,” adds Jensen. “But we don’t know how much. The goal of the feasibility study is to determine the cost of the infrastructure and how much we can save, or what our return will be on our investment.”

This is a project the city was interested in pursuing nearly 10 years ago. At the time, however, the costs of the project were exorbitant. The majority of the expenses for the project are in the infrastructure development.

One of the limitations of the geothermal energy is that in order to reap the benefits of the energy source, the business and city facilities must be close to the source.

Geothermal energy proved to be a successful venture in Nova Scotia, where one community built an industrial park, which used water from an abandoned mine, adds Jensen. The businesses using the geothermal energy saved 60 per cent in heating costs.

The city has future plans, if geothermal energy is found feasible, to expand the project to include additional city facilities and commercial buildings. The geothermal energy and cost savings could be used as an economic tool to attract new businesses to the community.

“If it proves to be feasible, we may go for more funding for a pilot project to include other municipal buildings and businesses,” he adds.

Geothermal energy is renewable and environmentally friendly. This project could also provide the city an opportunity to create new expertise, Jensen says.