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

Parksville runner ready to raise funds for charity

Watson to run half-marathon with daughter Lauren

Parksville man arrested after stabbing incident at makeshift camp near city mall

Oceanside RCMP report 28-year-old man taken into custody without incident

Qualicum Beach councillor files court petition against the town

Official says response to Walker’s petition will be filed

STANDING TALL: For some, B.C.’s forest industry is the best office in the world

A look at the forest sector in B.C. – and those hoping for the best – amid mill curtailments

Andrew Scheer likely marking last day in House of Commons as Opposition leader

Today’s Commons sitting is one of two scheduled for August

Deaths feared after train derails amid storms in Scotland

Stonehaven is on the line for passenger trains linking Aberdeen with the cities of Edinburgh and Glasgow

DFO says 5 aggrieved B.C First Nations were consulted on fisheries plan

Nuu-chah-nulth First Nations calls response ‘a sham,’ adding DFO never incorporates their views

VIDEO: B.C. community rallies to save snared eagle

Revelstoke climber scales tree to save the raptor

Lower Mainland woman gives birth on in-laws’ driveway

Frédérique Gagnon new son is appropriately named after Norse trickster god

Man, 54, charged in connection with fatal attack of Red Deer doctor

Doctor was killed in his walk-in clinic on Monday

Landlord takes front door, windows after single B.C. mom late with rent

Maple Ridge mom gets help from community generosity and government

Most Read