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Springhill getting aggressive developing geothermal resource

Cumberland Energy Authority
Cumberland Energy Authority - FILE

Energy authority to call for RFP for new business park design

For more than three decades Springhill has said geothermal is its future, and today that future is getting closer to becoming a reality.

Cumberland County’s Energy Authority held its third annual energy symposium at the Dr. Carson and Marion Murray Community Centre May 24, bringing together shareholders and supporters of developing the region’s green energy sector. Fittingly, the centre is the community’s showpiece for using geothermal energy to cool and warm a building.

Using the mine water that filled the workings after coal mining was discontinued in the community more than half a century ago, geothermal energy is largely been touted as the community’s future but a strategy has been a long time developing. Each year progress is made, however, and this year’s symposium served as a prime time for an update.

A deep exploration study of the mines beneath the community wrapped up in March, and its findings are helping guide next steps for developing the unique resource into something that can attract businesses and potentially change life in the community that has struggled compared to its heydays when coal was its major export. Among those next steps for this year is a request for proposals for a conceptual design for a future industrial park centred around the resource.

“When we envision this park, it is not a traditional industrial park with ugly factories and smokestacks going into the air,” Cumberland Energy Authority CEO Ray Hickey said. “We’re looking at something that’s going to incorporate the whole community and make Springhill an example for the county and maybe for the province or whole world in terms of an ideal community that’s built for the future.”

Centred on the environmentally-friendly energy available to heat and cool a building, Hickey says the industrial park could offer a seamless transition from the residential areas into the downtown into before entering the industrial park.

“We want it to incorporate into the community so that, ideally, you could live in Springhill, you could walk to work in the new business park through a recreational area, and it’s all integrated into a pleasant area to live and work.”

It seems like a utopian future, but the recent studies have given the authority many of the answers they need to attract businesses. Specifically, they can now say that the temperature of mine water inside the slopes leading to the mine’s inner workings sits at a similar temperature as water found much deeper underground. Preliminary estimates felt the mines hold 11 million cubic metres of water, and approximately half of that is inside those slopes.

Knowing what is underfoot and how to get to it is only half of the message, however. Money talks and, in the world of paying for heating and cooling, geothermal has something to say on the matter. Working with Efficiency Nova Scotia, the energy authority found the words they were looking for to attract new businesses.

“The findings were very dramatic in the study. This facility [the community centre], which uses geothermal energy for making ice, the savings were between 48 and 56 per cent compared to traditional methods,” Hickey said. “Saving over half is quite the incentive.”

Industries where climate control or heating and cooling large areas sits high on their priority lists, Hickey said, would be an optimum fit for Springhill.

In addition to the conceptual design, the energy authority will also conduct subsidence testing to determine ground stability in the industrial park area, develop a comprehensive marketing plan, seek out businesses to attract to the area and construction.

To learn more about the Cumberland Energy Authority, visit www.cumberland-energy-authority.ca.

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