Researchers study geology at Mount Meager, Canada’s only active volcano and a potential geothermal energy site, in the summer of 2019. (Geological Survey of Canada)

B.C. geothermal energy potential heats up after federal study

Volcanic belts in Cariboo, Stikine, Clearwater regions

Mount Meager in southwestern B.C. hasn’t erupted in 2,400 years, but it is considered Canada’s only active volcano.

The high alpine site in the Garibaldi volcanic belt near Whistler is a focal point for research into geothermal energy potential, where superheated water can be brought up from deep underground for electric power production, then returned.

After B.C. Hydro and geothermal companies drilled exploratory wells in recent years that found potential for energy production, a team from the Geological Survey of Canada has reported its findings from the first major field study.

The federal research isn’t designed to lead to a geothermal power plant at South Meager Creek, says Dr. Steve Grasby, project leader for the Geological Survey of Canada. The region already has run-of-river power projects online at Whistler-Blackcomb and on the Upper Lillooet River north of Pemberton, connected to the B.C. Hydro grid.

It’s to refine geological mapping and seismic measuring techniques that could be used across much of the province, in the Anahim, Wells Gray-Clearwater and Stikine volcanic belts. These volcano regions have been mostly dormant for 12,000 years, but have geothermal potential.

With work begun in the 1970s, Mt. Meager is the most studied geothermal hot spot in Canada, where initial wells have identified reservoirs at 250 degrees as shallow as one kilometre below the surface.

“We’re interested in looking at geothermal potential across the country, and part of the reason for that is it is a renewable energy resource,” Grasby said in a video presentation of last summer’s field work May 7. “Compared to other resources such as solar power or wind power, geothermal has the advantage of being a base load power supply. So that means it is always there when you need it.”

2014: Geothermal pitched as alternative to Site C dam

2018: Lakelse Lake geothermal project moving forward

The project had 34 researchers in the rugged region in the summer of 2019, living in tents and exploring by helicopter and on foot. Hot springs are one sign of geothermal potential, with heated water finding its own way to the surface, and research focused on identifying the likeliest places to drill.

Preliminary results indicate that one well in an area of high rock fracturing that allows water to escape could produce between six and 13 megawatts, running for more than 30 years.

Similar field work is being conducted in other geothermal sites, including the Kitselas First Nation near Terrace and south of Valemount near the Alberta border.

In 2014, geothermal was touted as an alternative to the Site C dam on the Peace River, but then-energy minister Bill Bennett said it was not considered well enough developed to replace the 1,100 megawatts of steady supply that project will produce.

The Garibaldi geothermal assessment project is supported by Geoscience BC, which has compiled all the reports on exploration and study of the region to date.


@tomfletcherbc
tfletcher@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

BC legislature

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

UPDATED: Interior Health to add 495 long-term seniors care beds

Nelson, Kelowna, Kamloops, Vernon and Penticton to receive new facilities

Donnie’s Golf Tournament heads into year six

All proceeds of the event go to the BC Children’s Hospital Foundation

Provincial COVID-19 data can now be used for B.C. to prepare for a second wave

In the past week, B.C. has seen a slight spike in daily test-positive case counts

Clearwater Elks taking a hit because of COVID-19

President Marnie Burnell noted the group was already hurting before the pandemic came into effect

Back in Time

Historical Perspective

Sources say Canada, U.S. likely to extend mutual travel ban into late August

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau hinted at the possibility after a phone call with U.S. President

Windows broken, racist graffiti left on Okanagan home

Family says nothing like this has happened since they moved to Summerland in 1980s

B.C. man who went by ‘Doctor Ray Gaglardi’ charged with sex assault of teenage boys

The man, 75, is accused of assaulting teenage boys he met through Coquitlam-area churches

B.C.’s potential deficit $12.5 billion as spending spikes, taxes drop

Finance Minister Carole James gives COVID-19 outlook

Canadians torn on scaling back COVID-19 benefits to save money: poll

Of those surveyed, 78 per cent said they were worried about the size of the deficit

‘Trauma equals addiction’: Why some seek solace in illicit drugs

Part 2: Many pushed into addiction by ‘toxic stress,’ says White Rock psychologist

Hotel rooms for B.C. homeless too hasty, NDP government told

Businesses forced out, but crime goes down, minister says

Wage subsidy will be extended until December amid post-COVID reopening: Trudeau

Trudeau said the extension will ‘give greater certainty and support to businesses’

B.C. government prepares for COVID-19 economic recovery efforts

New measures after July consultation, Carole James says

Most Read