According to new research by the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), the province could generate the equivalent energy of Site C, which is 5,500 megawatts, with power from geothermal sources. The price of this energy is also comparable to Site C at 10 cents per kilowatt hour or below.
Sustainable-energy proponent, Guy Dauncey says the timing of this new proposal is appropriate, as the province is preparing to make a decision on Site C sometime in November, while Clean Energy B.C. is also working on a portfolio of smaller proposals for submission to the provincial cabinet as an alternative to the $8 billion Site C project.
The federal/provincial Joint Review Panel commissioned earlier in the year has already noted that B.C. Hydro has yet to demonstrate the need for a dam of this size on the timetable it proposed, and went on to note potential alternatives hadn’t been fully explored, including geothermal.
The process of geothermal energy includes drilling thousands of metres into the earth’s hot spots, such as volcanoes, to release heat into the surface and generate steam for the purpose of powering turbines.
Hot springs are another example of a surface that indicates a prosperous area to examine, such as the case of Meager Creek, north of Pemberton, where a private developer drilled exploration wells and found high temperatures needed for geothermal energy, but didn’t produce enough hot water on the surface needed for a successful project.
B.C. wouldn’t be the first to invest in geothermal energy, as the U.S. is reported to have more than 3,000 megawatts of geothermal generation installed, according to the Department of Energy, many of which have been in operation for decades.
Another example is Iceland, where Dauncey says the highly-volcanic region get about 30 per cent of its electricity from geothermal power.
Dauncey goes on to say he would like to see the province put a one-year moratorium on the Site C decision while industry tries to explore the research of CanGEA further.
B.C. Hydro’s director of resource planning, Randy Reimann says the problem stems from the uncertainty surrounding this type of exploration, as was the case of Meager Creek, where developers can drill in promising spots but still come up empty.
According to Riemann, since 2002, energy policies have limited B.C. Hydro’s ability to engage in this type of exploration, as their mandate is to leave new energy proposals up to the private sector.
This is also not the first time researchers released information encouraging the exploration of geothermal power. In 2011, the Geological Survey of Canada calculated the county’s geothermal resources have the potential to meet all electricity needs with as few as 100 projects.
Dauncey concludes by saying the federal government can also encourage geothermal exploration by extending some of the incentives other industries receive, such as the flow-through tax credits that company shareholders get for the exploration work of junior mining companies.
With files from The Vancouver Sun