The Village of Valemount is looking to create a local energy company to harvest the excess heat from Borealis GeoPower’s geothermal project at Kinbasket Lake.
Borealis obtained the lease on the area of interest one year ago this October, and is in the preliminary stage of the project. If constructed, it would be the first commercial geothermal plant in BC, producing up to 10 MWe of power.
Borealis recently received support from the Simpcw, Shuswap and Skwlax First Nations who are 51 per cent shareholders in the project.
Borealis CEO Tim Thompson says they are interested in sharing the benefits of the project with the Village of Valemount as well.
“Quite bluntly, we want to keep the Village on our side,” Thompson says, adding the Village has already been very supportive of the project. “I think one of the best ways to do that is give them some flesh in the game.”
Thompson says they didn’t get as far as they wanted in their first year of lease, but they’ve made steady progress in developing the site, some 20 km south of Valemount. He says they are going through the final signature process on the contract with the First Nations and have a tentative deal with the Village with regards to the sale of heat.
The Village has budgeted $1,000 to add to the $4,000 it received from Columbia Basin Trust for the first step which is completing a Request For Proposal (RFP – see sidebar).
$40,000 has already been granted by the Omenica Beetle Action Coalition to complete a feasibility study on what it would take to create a local utility company.
The idea would be for the village to act as a broker of the excess hot water and find a suitable company that could relocate to the area to use it for their production. That company may be a greenhouse, wood dry kilns, a spa, or one of many other companies that use waste water in production.
Borealis would sell the heat at 30-50 per cent of the regular price to the Village, which could then broker the heat to a company or companies to create local jobs, Thompson says – the geothermal plant itself doesn’t bring many new positions.
Once the feasibility study is done the Village can see what it will take to get the spin-off heat project off the ground, says Tom Dall, chief administrative officer for the Village of Valemount.
Council has already approved that the Community Energy Association be hired to do the RFP for no more than $5,000.
Council is also seeking $20,000 from Northern Development Initiative Trust and $40,000 from Fortis BC.
Dall says the project will benefit the community by providing much-needed reliable power for the Robson Valley and to provide extra power for further developments.
Last month Calgary-based Borealis did a complete site visit with a trained geology team to collect more data for bio-geochemistry analysis.
The site has been of interest to scientists studying geothermal energy for years, but more work needs to be done to verfiy the source.
“We’re really happy with what we see,” says Craig Dunn, Chief Geologist.
One of their methods is to test trees’ chemical make-up so they can determine what sort of groundwater the trees’ roots are absorbing, he says.
Borealis is in ongoing negotiations with late-stage commercial partners who they are hoping will open their chequebooks for construction of the power plant, Thompson says. They hope to have similar amounts of funding come from federal and provincial governments as from private enterprise.
Borealis is in the process of renewing their yearly lease on the Canoe Reach area of interest, which they have been working on since last October.
To renew the lease, they have to demonstrate a certain amount of work has been done on the project. Thompson they will be continuing to invest in the project.
“We haven’t found anything that is seriously going to dissuade us. Things are looking good.”’
Development of the site will take four to six more years, Thompson says, if everything goes through.