I don’t think it’s a surprise to anyone that I support the idea of using geothermal – either for heat or for electricity – in our area. I know some people don’t yet understand why it makes so much sense, and why it hasn’t happened yet in BC and Canada, if it is such a great idea. I hope after the geothermal workshop this past weekend in Valemount that might be changing.

I talked all weekend about geothermal – both with some of the presenters and with many local people and other participants in the workshop hosted by the Valemount Community Forest and the Village of Valemount. It seems a lot of people are charged and excited about the potential – like local gardeners and greenhouse owners who are excited about the idea of building new greenhouses at the VCF’s new industrial park, and the local brewer who could really use some cheap heat to expand his operation.

It seems to me there are three key ideas stemming from the workshop that we could choose to pursue as a community. The first is the hot springs. Mike Sato is clearly very passionate about building a natural looking, Japanese-style hot spring near our existing spring. Former mayor Andru McCracken has argued before that since the Columbia River Treaty caused the flooding of our hot spring, it makes sense to use the funding we can get from Columbia Basin Trust (established in 1995 to help mitigate effects of the treaty) to try to rebuild that hot spring. I am sure that would make many local residents happy, and would attract a certain number of visitors, though the issue of accessing the hot spring, 25 kilometers down an avalanche- and washout- prone road still needs some serious thought.

The second idea is generating electricity in the Canoe Reach of Kinbasket, the project that Borealis Geopower has been working on for something like seven years now. We have huge potential in the Rocky Mountain Trench, and the very technical, surface-level work Borealis has been doing is helping to pin down where to drill for the best effect, but of course there is still a risk. The presenters at the workshop gave four or five reasons why other drillers haven’t been doing geothermal (none are about any real problem with drilling for geothermal), but there are also many reasons why now is a really good time to do it. Borealis currently has the rights to exploration for high enough temperatures to generate electricity, and I think they are open to a variety of ideas for partnerships.

The third idea is drilling for heat at the Valemount Industrial Park. The park (all of Cedarside, really) is on a bit of a plateau, and as Craig Dunn says, we won’t know exactly how deep we have to go for heat until we drill. But imagine – the Valemount Community Forest has this great property, close to the highway and a rail spur. It now has this additional wood volume – not enough for a big mill, but enough to start negotiating with small mill owners, anyone who can put together an idea to use wood that we have but is not in high demand elsewhere. What if it also had potentially unlimited, nearly free heat? What if there is enough heat to dry lumber, pulp and paper, or cure concrete? What if there is enough heat to dry and process foods like onion and garlic? What if there is only enough heat to heat green houses, year-round, and we become the Catsup Capital of Canada?

I really want to see us lead BC and Canada in generating electricity with no emissions, from the heat beneath our feet. But maybe what I want to see even more is the jobs that will come either from using the “waste” heat from generating electricity, or the direct use that might be under the feet of anyone walking on the Valemount Industrial Park. And then we can build a natural-looking hot spring wherever we want.