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

B.C. Greens hurrying to get candidates in place for provincial election

No candidates announced yet in Nanaimo, Nanaimo-North Cowichan or Parksville-Qualicum

Nanaimo-North Cowichan MLA Doug Routley seeks reelection

Routley has served as MLA for the area since 2005.

Survey to gauge interest in connecting Cowichan to Nanaimo by bus

People can fill out the survey until Oct. 16.

Citing stability, B.C. Premier calls snap election for Oct. 24

John Horgan meets with Lieutenant Governor to request vote

B.C. reports 91 new cases as officials remain worried over ‘clusters of COVID-19

There have now been a total of 8,395 cases in B.C. since the pandemic began

Canada’s active COVID-19 cases top 10,000 as daily new cases triple over the past month

Dr. Tam repeated her warning to young people, who have made up the majority of recent cases

‘Show us the money’ for cannabis, local governments tell B.C.

Municipal tax, transit revenues falling as costs rise

Cops for Cancer: COVID-19 can’t stop Tour de Rock

‘having the chance to come back and ride this year means everything to me’

‘It’s a boy’: Southern Resident killer whale calf born to J Pod is healthy, researchers say

J35 had previously done a ‘Tour of Grief,’ carrying her dead calf for 17 days

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

People ‘disgusted’ by COVID-19 election call, B.C. Liberal leader says

Andrew Wilkinson speaks to municipal leaders from Victoria

Horgan blasts B.C. Greens for refusing youth overdose detention

Lack of support key to B.C. election call, NDP leader says

Grand jury indicts police officer in Breonna Taylor death

Officer Brett Hankison was charged with three counts of wanton endangerment

Most Read