By Andru McCracken

The Village of Valemount Council and staff plans to work with Borealis GeoPower to explore for and use geothermal heat in public buildings if the community gets two federal grants worth between $3.2 and $3.7 million.

Council announced its intention to apply for the grants after the in camera session of their October 13th meeting.

Chief Administrative Officer Wayne Robinson described the plan:

“The idea is to tap into the geothermal resource located under the Village and use the heat to create a direct heat district heating system. This funding application will be to build a distribution system (District Heating System) that pipes hot water throughout the Village to different public use buildings in order to replace their need to use other heating sources (like propane, oil, or electric). The thought is that this system will result in up to a 50% decrease in heating costs for these public buildings. Should the funding be awarded, and after the system has been built, properties located adjacent to the district heating distribution lines will be invited to ‘tap into’ the district heating system. It is expected they too will realize an up to 50% savings in their heating costs. Besides cost savings, the project will result in a displacement of all greenhouse gasses emitted by the connected building in relation to heating, and help improve local air quality when residential customers can be connected and their wood stoves be rendered unnecessary.”

Robinson said that the actual application is private because it contains trade secrets held by Borealis GeoPower.

The application will be made to the Investing in Canada Infrastructure Program for Green Infrastructure: Climate Change Mitigation Sub-Stream CleanBC Communities Fund as well as a Rural and Northern Communities grant.

In order to qualify for one of the grants (worth $1,066,800) council was required to pass a resolution stating that they would cover 26.67%. Robinson added that they are working on grants to cover these costs too.

“The Village is working on agreements that will ensure the Village (and local taxpayers) will not have to pay the 26.6% of the project costs nor will the Village have to pay for cost overages. These specific resolutions were required for the Grant Applications but these amounts will likely not have to come from us,” said Robinson.

Mayor Owen Torgerson said the project could have far reaching benefits, such as reducing the cost of heating for many businesses by 40 to 60 per cent. In the long term it could also help with Valemount’s air quality problem.

He believes the grants will be announced after Christmas.

“From a federal standpoint it would lessen our carbon footprint. It would give other options for heat other than propane or electricity [or wood],” he said.

He said the savings for large public buildings could be huge.

Torgerson said the grant doesn’t cover residential, the main emitter of wood smoke in the valley, but it would set the stage for that in the future.

“The last mile will be really easy with the backbone we are putting in. Residents could take advantage of energy retrofit funding or other grants available,” he said.

“We’ve known for a long time we are sitting on a plethora of energy,” said Torgerson.

He said that the Rocky Mountain Trench and other major faults intersect around the Valemount.

“We just have to find it. I’m extremely confident.”