By Erin Flegg – republished with permission from desmog.ca
At a time when B.C.’s politicians are considering flooding the Peace Valley for the Site C hydroelectric dam, a new project by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association says the province could be sitting on a figurative gold mine of power with low environmental impact.
The project used publicly available data to produce a database of maps and supporting information that show all the areas in B.C.that have the potential to produce geothermal energy. The project reports that, using existing technology, the province could produce between 5,500 and 6,600 megawatts of power — enough to power the whole province.
Ironically, the information CanGEA used comes mainly from the oil and gas industry, which is required by law to report on things like well depth and temperature.
The tip of the iceberg?
Significantly, information is only available for 23 percent of the province, indicating that once data becomes available for the remainder of the province, the estimates for geothermal energy production should be even higher.
In addition to comprehensive data about conditions below the surface, the report also identifies areas that, based on surface characteristics, show promise. These areas are primarily in the northeast of B.C. where access via roads and other infrastructure are already in place, largely thanks to natural gas development. Factors like these diminish initial exploration costs, a primary barrier to commercial geothermal development in Canada, making it more economically viable.
Canadian Geothermal Energy Association chair Alison Thompson said the information conforms to the highest global standards for determining energy potential.
“We have over 20,000 data points. We actually have real date. These are not estimates, there is no extrapolation,” she said, adding the report and the maps will be useful to industry looking to conduct explorations for sites in B.C.
A sustainable alternative to Site C Dam
Geothermal energy could provide an alternative to large, expensive and disruptive projects such as the proposed Site C dam, which would flood an area the size of Victoria in the Agricultural Land Reserve. The joint review panel reviewing the Site C project took the B.C.government to task for failing to heed advice to explore geothermal as an alternative to building another mega dam for 31 years.
“The low level of effort is surprising, especially if it results in a plan that involves large and possibly avoidable environmental and social costs,” the panel wrote.
Geothermal power can be build out incrementally to meet demand, rather than building one big project like the Site C dam.
A firm source of renewable energy
Geothermal power plants provide a firm source of base load power, similar to a hydro dam. Dr. Stephen Grasby, a geochemist with Natural Resources Canada, says the environmental footprint of geothermal energy is smaller than other renewable energy sources, such as wind and hydro.
[quote]For instance, the surface area required to have developments like a wind farm, that takes a large surface area and has other associated issues with things like bird kill.[/quote]
Geothermal energy requires only a well and a heat exchange system.
“Drilling is relatively low impact,” Grasby said, adding with a laugh, “Worst case scenario is you accidentally discover oil or something.”
Drilling would be controlled by the same regulations that already monitor any kind of well drilling in the province.
Canada alone in ignoring its geothermal potential
Canada is currently the only major country located along the Pacific Rim’s Ring of Fire not producing geothermal energy. A Geological Survey of Canada report recently noted that northeast B.C. has the “highest potential for immediate development of geothermal energy” anywhere in the country.
The Site C joint review panel recommended that, regardless of the decision taken on Site C, that BC Hydro establish a research and development budget for the engineering characterization of geographically diverse renewable resources, such as geothermal.
“If the senior governments were doing their job, there would be no need for this recommendation,” the panel added.
Erin Flegg is a freelance writer and journalist, and her work appears in the Vancouver Observer, Xtra West and This Magazine. She holds an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia.
15 thoughts on “BC sitting on enough geothermal to power whole province: New maps”
Unfortunately, COMMON SENSE isn’t a normal trait of gov’t at any level these days. Look at the whole LNG boondoggle, now site C, lets not forget about $1billion on $mart meters that only last 11yrs!!! Makes the fast ferry screwup look like nothing. Someone up top is steering the Queen of the North into an iceberg of corruption and stupidity. Clark should do some more photo-ops with that big fake grin on her face… must be all that back pocket cashola. Aren’t leaders supposed to lead by good example?
BC Hydro forced me to ditch my analog meter for a $mart meter recently, saying they would end my net-metering contract (solar grid tie all legit) if I didn’t switch… then they tried to rip me off 5000kwh of energy. Luckily Measurement Canada tested my meter so I have evidence it worked fine going backwards. This is not a corporation that supports green energy.
I read somewhere that Simon Fraser University was on a extinct volcano. We could use it for power for the lower mainland.
All those holes they drilled while fracking….why not make use of them to bring geothermal up where we can make use of it…
or would that just be too logical and too ….????
part of what makes them say “fracking is safe” is that they use concrete to seal the hole so the waste water (the chemicals they put in millions of gallons of fresh drinkable water) doesnt get into the water shed. all those videos of people lighting their tap water on fire does suggest that it doesnt work well, but it works well enough that its useless as a geothermal well. not to mention all the chemicals they put in there would corrode any pump or geothermal system anyway. its just to toxic to use for anything.
Your aberrant Government is selling the future of Life on this Planet to China, as is the US.. We must stop them,yes? The whole world need divestment to Clean Renewable Energy-Why is China not called on this point ?.. They have successfully silenced their own people.. They are silencing the rest of the World with money pressures..
As long as it’s not on a fault line…
Looks good to me.
These aren’t nuke plants.
Fault lines and volcanic zones (Whistler/ Mount Meager) can often be were the closest hot spots are to the surface, especially near hot springs.
Check out the Geothermal 101 stuff over at the CANGEA web page:
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