Valemount leads geothermal way: Geoscience B.C.

File Photo
File Photo

by EVAN MATTHEWS

Valemount is an ideal candidate for direct-use geothermal energy, according to a report released by Geoscience B.C. last week, as it suggests the Village of Valemount is at an advanced stage in planning for direct-use geothermal heat.

Geoscience B.C. is a non-profit organization that receives funding from the provincial government, and its mandate it to attract mineral, oil and gas investment to B.C., its website reads.

The report states, “Very few communities in B.C. have considered direct-use geothermal energy,” but Valemount is an exception.

“Valemount is one of the most progressive communities when it comes to geothermal…  It is the poster child,” says Carlos Salas, vice president of energy for Geoscience B.C.

“I’m hoping other communities look (here) for advice on how to move forward,” he says.

The study shows 63 “stand-out” communities with geothermal potential —Valemount sits atop that list, as the report states many times — but Salas says a community doesn’t need ideal geothermal conditions to make use of it.

Surrey, B.C., powers its city hall and the adjacent buildings with direct-use geothermal energy in spite being located in a sub-optimum geothermal area, Salas says.

“I mean this in the nicest way possible,” says Salas. “If Surrey can do it, anywhere in B.C. can do it.”

Geothermal shouldn’t be categorically dismissed regardless of area, Salas says, as it has its applications — especially in Valemount — an optimum geothermal area.

Valemount has outlined using direct-use geothermal as an effective way of cutting greenhouse emissions, the report says, and the Village of Valemount has expressed interest in doing pilot projects.

Some of the direct-use applications Valemount has been exploring — aside from heating residential and commercial spaces — include mushroom drying, use of forest products and operation of greenhouses, according to the report.

“Valemount is working along a great path… and probably as close as any community to obtaining geothermal energy,” says Salas. “Borealis is an expert in the field.”

One of the more prominent projects being proposed in Valemount is the geothermal industrial park, and is in the planning stages with Borealis Geopower, Valemount Community Forest (VCF), the Valemount Geothermal Society (VGS), the Regional District of Fraser-Fort George and the Village of Valemount.

The role of each aforementioned organization in the proposed industrial park remain is uncertain.

“We know Valemount is an ideal geothermal location,” says Alison Thompson, a Principal with Borealis. “It’s about everyone coming and working together for a shared idea.”

Borealis Geopower is an energy developer, a company working toward enabling geothermal power and heat production as a major player in the Canadian energy market, according to its website.

Korie Marshall, president of the VGS, says she agrees with Thompson, and the players all need to come together.

“VCF, the village nor the people who live here have the capacity, knowledge or skills to do what Borealis can do,” says Marshall. “They’ve been researching the heat… and mapping it out.”

The Valemount Geothermal Society is aimed at being a voice for the community, according to Marshall, while VGS’ goal is to provide opportunities for the community to be involved in geothermal-related projects coming to Valemount.

The Village of Valemount owns VCF, although they are separate entities. VCF’s mandate is to maximize local employment and manufacture opportunities, work on initiatives to expand the Community Forest Area, nurture relationships with First Nations, and work with local recreational groups to synergize objectives and opportunities for the community.

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