Alberta town embraces geothermal energy project with integrated vertical farm

The town of Hinton, Alta., traditionally reliant on resource extraction and forestry, may soon become a site of a unique, clean energy project that combines geothermal energy and food production. "It's a new technology. It's the future," Marcel Michaels, mayor of the town of 10,000 people, 290 kilometers west of Edmonton, told CBC News.

The project is called Latitude 53. Last week, Calgary-based Novus Earth obtained a $5-million grant from Natural Resources Canada for a front-end engineering design (FEED) study. Novus Earth and Mitacs National Research Organization are also contributing to the project, bringing the total investment to date to $6.6 million, Natural Resources Canada said in a news release.

The type of geothermal energy generation that Novus Earth intends to develop in Hinton relies on the so-called geothermal gradient and water. Water runs in a closed loop in pipes that are buried deep under the surface, where Earth's natural heat warms it up to about 130 C.

The hot water is piped through a heat exchanger, changing the pressure of fluid in another closed system, and that high-pressure fluid drives the turbine, generating electricity. The water is then cooled to about 70 C and used for heating the company's facility. Potentially, it could also be used for local district heating in Hinton.

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