There’s been nothing but dust collecting at the old Penobsquis mine site outside of Sussex. The once bustling facility was shuttered in 2015 when mining operations ceased, causing a major blow to the local economy, with hundreds out of work.
“This would breathe a breath of fresh air into the former facility, utilize in some fashion and gain an economic advantage,” explains Scott Hatcher, chief administrative officer of the town of Sussex.
The mine may be stagnant but what’s going on underground has peaked the interest of those in the renewable energy business. Sussex has completed a feasibility study looking at geothermal heating which is essentially harnessing the earth’s internal heat.
“The idea is to drill down and tap into that water, extract it, run that water through pipes to a heat exchanger and either extract heating or cooling out of that water and return it back to the mine,” said Hatcher.
The mine began flooding in 2016 and it’s believed that by 2020, engineers can begin tapping into the green energy source, making Sussex and its surrounding area a little more attractive to industry.
Like Avon Valley Greenhouse, if they hop on-board with the project, it’s possible they could save about 70 per cent of their energy costs per year.
The greenhouses are spread out on 20 acres of land, and supplies flowers and plants to businesses across Atlantic Canada.
Using wood as a primary heat source, the energy bill sits at about $300,000 a year and with geothermal energy, that price-tag could be $80,000.
“If it’s viable, it can’t come soon enough from our perspective. But we know that it’s still several years off but that day will never come if we don’t get started with feasibility studies,” explains president and CEO Kevin White, while on the phone from their head office in Falmouth, N.S.
The project comes with an $11.3-million price-tag. Engineers still have to make the project “shovel ready” before applying for funding from both levels of government. But if all bodes well, it’s possible the idea of geothermal heating could become a reality in mid-2020.