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

A new Lois Creek Trails website has information about the trails and history of the area.

Friends of Lois Creek, a volunteer organization in Kimberley, is pleased to… Continue reading

Kimberley RCMP pick up another early morning impaired driver

Another impaired driver has been picked up by Kimberley RCMP, this time… Continue reading

Kimberley Independent School students go seriously green

Huge garden and tree project undertaken by students, teachers

PHOTOS: Momma black bear and cubs spotted in Townsite

A momma black bear and her two cubs, spotted getting near The… Continue reading

VIDEO: B.C. dentist gets grand welcome home after two months in hospital fighting COVID-19

Michael Chow was given a surprise send off by hospital staff and ‘welcome home’ from neighbours

‘Like finding a needle in a haystack’: Ancient arrowhead discovered near Williams Lake

The artifact is believed to be from the Nesikip period between 7,500 BP to 6,000 BP

Indigenous families say their loved ones’ deaths in custody are part of pattern

Nora Martin joins other Indigenous families in calling for a significant shift in policing

Friends, family mourn Salt Spring Island woman killed in suspected murder-suicide

A GoFundMe campaign has been launched for Jennifer Quesnel’s three sons

PHOTOS: Anti-racism protesters gather in communities across B.C.

More protests are expected through the weekend

Indigenous chief alleges RCMP beat him during arrest that began over expired licence plate

Athabasca Chipewyan Chief Allan Adam calling for independent investigation

‘I’m pissed, I’m outraged’: Federal minister calls out police violence against Indigenous people

Indigenous Minister Marc Miller spoke on recent incidents, including fatal shooting of a B.C. woman

UPDATED: Pair accused of ‘horrific’ assault at Vancouver’s Oppenheimer Park arrested

Police say Jason Tapp, 30, and Nicole Edwards, 33, did not show up to meet their bail supervisor this week

Most Read