A Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) regarding the proposed geothermal industrial park in Valemount now exists between Borealis Geopower and the Valemount Community Forest.
Alison Thompson, a principal with Borealis Geopower — also the chair and co-founder of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association — says the Community Forest’s interest in the Cedarside property is what makes the site so attractive.
Borealis Geopower is a company working toward enabling geothermal power and heat production as a major player in the Canadian energy market, according to its website.
“We’re trying to work with the players involved to get something off the ground (at Cedarside),” says Thompson. “We know Valemount is an ideal geothermal location.”
In an interview with Silvio Gislimberti, Valemount’s economic development officer, The Goat was told that MOUs are an indication of where things are going, but the agreement is subject to change.
Thompson shared the thought, as she acknowledges the MOU as an indication, but added it’s a legally binding document and a formal agreement.
However, neither would not elaborate on what the MOU actually outlines, only saying, “It’s a private document between two companies.”
What would the ownership breakdown between Borealis and the Village of Valemount actually look like?
Carlos Salas, vice president of energy for Geoscience B.C., says ownership of geothermal energy is the same as any other resource.
Ownership of the resource would depend on who has the rights, Salas says, and ownership of those rights would be outlined on the development permit and tenure system.
However, the Cedarside property sits outside the village’s perimeter, which means any development permit must be applied for through the regional district, according to Valemount’s CAO, Mark Macneill.
The Goat could not find any evidence to suggest Borealis has applied for a development permit through regional district.
Kenna Jonkman, manager of development services with the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George, says because the Valemount Community Forest owns the land, they don’t need a development permit at all. If they want to develop a geopark on the area zoned as “M3 land”, she says The Community Forest would only need a building permit.
“A lot of that area is already zoned for heavy industrial,” says Jonkman. “A geothermal plant falls under that permitted use.”
The Valemount Community Forest manager, Craig Pryor, did not return The Goat’s calls by presstime to answer if a building permit has been applied for, or what the nature of the Community Forest’s agreement with Borealis is.
Misconceived is the best word to describe ownership of a geothermal resource, according to Thompson.
“It’s not about owning the resource… There is more than enough to go around,” says Thompson. “One person can only take so many hot showers, or use so much heat.
“It’s about working together,” she says. “Geothermal cuts emissions and saves energy cost in the long-term. We’re just a developer. We need consumers.”
Just last week, a report released by Geoscience B.C. listed Valemount as a leading candidate for direct-use geothermal energy. Geoscience B.C. is a provincially funded organization mandated to attracting mineral, oil and gas investment to B.C.
While the MOU has been signed, who will run the utility is still up in the air, according to Thompson, who says it likely won’t be Borealis, but a utility could be done by a number of organizations including the Community Forest or Valemount Geothermal Society (VGS).
Utility, simply defined, is the management and distribution of a resource. After a developer has drilled for the resource, an organization must connect to the resource, distribute it, and manage it for the consumers.
“It just has to be someone who is willing to step up and do it,” Thompson says.
The Valemount Geothermal Society is aimed at being a voice for the community, while its goal is to provide opportunities for the community to be involved in geothermal-related projects in Valemount.
President of VGS, Korie Marshall, says the organization is considering providing the utility for the Cedarside project, but only due to the uncertainty of another candidates to date.
But Marshall says the Village of Valemount — whose role in the project is admittedly undefined by CAO Macneill — would be in a better position to facilitate a utility, as they already have access to the funding and legal team required, as compared to a brand new society.
The start up cost for a geothermal industrial park, according to Thompson, could be climb as high as the hundreds of millions.