Canada: university starts geothermal heating project for new greenhouse complex in Estevan

The Petroleum Technology Research Centre (PTRC) announced funding for a University of Regina research project looking at geothermal heat and the integration of different energy sources at a proposed greenhouse complex in Estevan.

The project will see the University working with startup First Nation’s company Evolution Growers – which is in the advanced stages of planning and developing of a greenhouse operation that will utilize different sources of clean energy – on a three-tiered research program:

  1. Exploring medium to high-temperature geothermal reservoirs in Saskatchewan with careful engineering design and implementation to secure a long-term sustainable energy process at the Evolution Growers’ site.
  2. Develop a tool to assist in determining geothermal energy conversion and delivery configurations that would maximize the energy efficiency of operations.
  3. Provide a cost-effective and resilient integrated energy system to integrate and utilize the geothermal, solar, wind, and battery energy storage at the site.

Evolution is looking to use geothermal, solar energy, and methane gas sources in the energy and heating design of two proposed greenhouses. Such a project will need geological characterization and engineering work and an integrative energy system to switch sources as operational demands change.

“The greenhouses will tap varying energy sources for our heating and lighting,” notes Derrick Big Eagle, a First Nations entrepreneur and owner of Evolution Growers. “There aren’t many commercial greenhouse operations between Winnipeg and Alberta, and the demand is high for fresh vegetables and produce grown locally. It’s not just the use of clean energy to power the greenhouses, but also the reduction in transportation emissions we can achieve by growing more of our produce here that makes this project so environmentally efficient.”

U of R scientists from three different engineering schools – Industrial Systems, Petroleum Systems, and Electronic Systems Engineering – contribute know-how and research to the project. This integrative and cooperative approach reflects the goals outlined in the University’s Transitional Energy Hub, an initiative launched in 2021 that looks to increase interactive research across disciplines at U of R to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and improve energy efficiencies.

“What’s also exciting about this research project is that the skills and talents of professors, graduate students, and postdocs in areas of research that have previously focused primarily on hydrocarbon resources are directly applicable – and necessary – in the emerging energy field,” notes Kathy McNutt, Vice-President (Research) at the U of R.

“PTRC has always had a strong focus on helping different companies with large set-point sources of CO2 realize their emission reduction targets,” noted Ran Narayanasamy, the CEO of the PTRC. “We’re excited by this project because it expands PTRC’s reach into geothermal  energy sources while also helping the University develop artificial intelligence and machine learning expertise to create integrated energy systems.”

The two-year research budget is $240,000, with PTRC’s $60,000 being supported by an additional $180,000 by Mitacs. This federally funded research facilitator assists universities working with companies to place and train highly qualified personnel. Both PTRC and the University are grateful to Mitacs for supporting efforts to expand engineering and scientific expertise into new energy fields.

For more information:
University of Regina 

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