Energy, Mines and Resources

Energy Branch / Energy Solutions Centre

Renewable energy resources

Geothermal Energy

Earth's interior contains heat energy or geothermal energy that yields warmth and power we can use with limited environmental impact.

The heat from the earth's core continuously flows outward in the form of hot, liquid rock (magma). Sometimes magma reaches all the way to the earth's surface, where we know it as lava. But most often the magma remains below the earth's crust, heating nearby rock and ground water. Some of this hot water travels back up through faults and cracks and reaches the earth's surface as hot springs or geysers, but most of it stays deep underground, trapped in cracks and porous rock known as geothermal reservoirs.

We can drill wells into the geothermal reservoirs to bring hot water to the surface. Geologists, geochemists, drillers and engineers explore and assess areas that contain this geothermal water, to determine where to drill geothermal production wells. Once the hot water or steam travels up the wells to the surface, it can be used to generate electricity in geothermal power plants or for energy saving non-electrical purposes.


Geothermal Heat Pumps

Not far under the earth's surface the temperature is relatively stable compared to the air temperature. For this reason animals and humans have historically built dwellings in caves and below the earth's surface to get shelter from winter's cold and summer's heat. Modern geothermal heat pumps (GHP's), take advantage of this stable earth temperature to help keep our indoor temperatures comfortable.

GHP's circulate water or other liquids through pipes buried in the ground in a continuous loop. Depending on the weather, the system can be used for heating or cooling.

Heating: The heat from the earth is transferred through the buried pipes into the circulating liquid and then transferred again into the building.

Cooling: During hot weather, the continually circulating fluid in the pipes transfers heat from the building to the earth, thus helping to cool the building.

Geothermal Heat Pumps are very energy effective. They produce three times as much heat energy as they use.


Geothermal in Yukon

In 2016, the Government of Yukon and the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association released a report on the potential for geothermal energy in Yukon.

According to the Yukon Geothermal Opportunities and Applications report  86.9 MB, Yukon’s geothermal potential could be more than 1,700 MW of energy. This is equivalent to 18 times the current energy supplied by Yukon’s renewable electrical system (90 MW).

Google Earth maps
Data is also made available through the following maps which use Google Earth (download a copy of Google Earth). The maps were generated from uncorrected (that is, conservative) bottom hole temperatures.

Temperature at depth maps [KMZ, 1.9 MB]

  • Yukon data summary
  • Deep systems: 1,000m – 5,000m
  • Shallow systems (Direct Use): 100m – 500m

Technical Potential Maps [KMZ, 3.4 MB]

  • Yukon data summary
  • Technical potential for Low (5%), Medium (14%) and High (20%) recovery from 2,000-5,000m depth
  • Reporting code (indicated resources)

Theoretical Potential Maps [KMZ, 2.2 MB]

  • Yukon data summary
  • Theoretical potential from 3,000-5,000m depth
  • Reporting code (indicated resources)

Land use maps [KMZ, 23.7 MB]

  • Yukon data summary
  • Yukon subsurface favourability score
  • Land use layers

Supplemental maps [KMZ, 2.6 MB]

  • Yukon data summary
  • Annual average ambient air temperature at surface
  • Temperature at basement
  • Heat flow maps (at surface and at basement)
  • Temperature gradient maps from 1,000-5,000m depth
  • Conductivity maps from 1,000-5,000m depth
  • Heat generation maps from 1,000-5,000m depth

Priority exploration areas maps [KMZ, 1.2 MB]


Past Studies

A 1976 study of Yukon's geothermal springs, conducted for Natural Resources Canada, described 13 geothermal springs in Yukon, located south of Dawson City, and eight more located in Northern BC. There are also approximately 18 springs close to the Yukon-NWT border, along the Mackenzie Mountains.

Areas of Yukon that geologists cite as warranting further investigation are the Cantung and Whitehorse-Takhini areas.


Using Geothermal Energy in Yukon

The City of Whitehorse and the Village of Mayo are using very low grade geothermal energy in the form of warm groundwater, to keep their municipal water systems from freezing in winter. To learn more about the potential for using warm groundwater in the Yukon, read the Yukon Groundwater Heat Potential Study 2003  13 MB. You may also find useful information in the Summary of Yukon Water Wells  258 KB.


Mayo

The Energy branch is working with the town of Mayo to help heat some buildings in the community using geothermal technology. The project involves activating two geothermal wells that were drilled in the early 1980's.

The intent of the project is to reduce Mayo’s dependence on high cost fossil fuels, to prove the long-term viability of converting fossil fuel based systems to heat pump systems, to raise awareness of geothermal technology and its potential in the North, and to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The project is being funded by Yukon government's Energy branch, the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, and the Canadian GeoExchange Coalition, a group made up of federal and utility representatives. View the 2005 Village of Mayo Well Rehabilitation and Resource Assessment  60 MB.


Haines Junction

The Energy branch is also working with the Village of Haines Junction to use its geothermal artesian well. The purpose of this project is to use the artesian well water (at a temperature of 16.9ºC) in combination with a heat pump system to warm the Haines Junction Convention Centre.

The project could reduce the amount of fuel oil required to heat the convention centre by 94%, or 30,806 litres per year, resulting in environmental benefits that include a reduction in local air pollution and a reduction of 87 tonnes of carbon dioxide a year. View the Resource Assessment  11 MB.


Whitehorse and Surrounding Area

City of Whitehorse
Check out the City of Whitehorse's 2008 Groundwater Temperature, Geothermometer and Geothermal Signature Assessment  1.6 MB report to learn more about the geothermal resource in the Whitehorse area.

Takhini Hot Springs
This commercial tourist attraction pumps 50ºC water from the springs, into a year-round outdoor swimming pool. Hot water from the springs is also used to heat a portion of the facility's buildings.

Vanier Secondary School
In 2002, a study on two warm water aquifers underlying the Whitehorse subdivision of Riverdale. View the Vanier School Ground Source Heat Pump Project Hydrological Assessment  1.6 MB.

Read about Ground Source Heat Pumps in Cold Climates in a new publication from the Alaska Center for Energy and Power and the Cold Climate Housing Research Center of Alaska.