10737552373_a39c0c6123_z.jpg

New Maps Reveal B.C. Has Enough Geothermal Potential to Power Entire Province

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 mega watts 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.

 
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 data. 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.
 
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.
 
 
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.
 
“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,” he said. Geothermal energy requires only a well and a heat exchange system.
 
“Drilling is relatively low impact,” he 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 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.

Related articles:
Top 5 Reasons Geothermal Power is Nowhere in Canada
Three Decades and Counting: How B.C. Has Failed to Investigate Alternatives to Site C Dam
 
Photo: Blue lagoon geothermal plant in Icleand. Jamie Slomski via Flickr.

We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?
We hear it time and time again:
“These are the stories that need to be told and you are some of the only ones telling them,” John, a new member of The Narwhal, wrote in to say.

Investigating stories others aren’t. Diving deep to find solutions to the climate crisis. Sending journalists to report from remote locations for days and sometimes weeks on end. These are the core tenets of what we do here at The Narwhal. It’s also the kind of work that takes time and resources to pull off.

That might sound obvious, but it’s far from reality in many shrinking and cash-strapped Canadian newsrooms. So what’s The Narwhal’s secret sauce? Thousands of members like John who support our non-profit, ad-free journalism by giving whatever they can afford each month (or year).

But here’s the thing: just two per cent of The Narwhal’s readers step up to keep our stories free for all to read. Will you join the two per cent and become a member of The Narwhal today?

After years of resistance, Coastal GasLink starts to drill under Wet’suwet’en river

This story was originally published by Ricochet. The mountain woodland shimmers green with hints of rust-coloured Fall descending to envelop it in silent foliage. The...

Continue reading

Recent Posts

The Narwhal is only possible because a tiny fraction of readers like you donate whatever they can to keep our journalism free for all to read.
Help keep our journalism free for all to read.
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism
Get The Narwhal in your inbox!
People always tell us they love our newsletter. Find out yourself with a weekly dose of our ad‑free, independent journalism