While the potential of geothermal energy development for Springhill has been well documented for over 30 years, it hasn’t created the kind of economic windfall many had anticipated.
I can recall the optimism of its early proponents and the area’s political leaders as they gathered at the first geothermal conference ever to take place in Eastern Canada and hosted by the Town of Springhill in the fall of 1992. Then economic development officer and the late Ron Jefferson talked about how this unique alternative source of energy could hold the key to industrial growth and more jobs for Springhill. By that time, the town already had its first feasibility study on geothermal and Ropak was the first industry in the town to sign on to the heating and cooling system in 1986. Several other businesses and industries along with the town’s community centre followed suit and are now using geothermal and as a result enjoying significant savings in their energy costs.
Slowly, but surely it appears Springhill may be turning a corner on finally tapping the full potential of all that mine water that has flooded several kilometers of abandoned coal mines that lie beneath the community. What community leaders like Ron Jefferson envisioned those many years ago may soon come to fruition.
I was encouraged to hear the latest update from Municipality of Cumberland engineers at a recent Springhill Chamber of Commerce dinner who spoke of the progress that has been made by the Cumberland Energy Authority in taking geothermal development to the next level. Engineers have looked at existing mineshafts and drilling more wells to develop a better understanding of capacity and found massive amounts of warm water with the prospects that as they explore the deeper seams they could discover potentially much warmer water. They have also determined the infrastructure requirements for a new green industrial park in Springhill which is earmarked for development sometime within the next year.
As a Dalhousie University study done for the Cumberland Energy Authority points out, the park would be a logical destination for large scale industrial operations as manufacturing, food processing and agri/aqua-culture.
“Springhill can offer a green heating solution with unmatched volume and scale aand while there may be the higher upfront costs associated with installation, the low cost of operation of such a heating and cooling system would prove much more efficient over the longer term.”
The challenge now is to effectively market and promote this tremendous natural resource.
No doubt, there will be several more hurdles to overcome in the months ahead, but geothermal energy development holds tremendous promise as we strive to wean ourselves off fossill fuels and make the shift to a greener and cleaner source of energy. With what has been accomplished here in recent years, there is no reason why Springhill cannot become not just the provincial leader, but the national leader in geothermal development.
Geoff deGannes is the past chairman of the Tantramar Radio Society. His daily commentaries can be heard on 107.9 CFTA.