A small Vancouver company has contacted the provincial Environmental Assessment Office about developing a $276-million geothermal power project. Craig Aspinall, spokesperson for Meager Creek Development Corp., told the Straight that if the project is built, it will be Canada's first commercial geothermal power project.
Geothermal plants generate electricity from heat, contained in underground reservoirs, that powers turbines. Aspinall said the company hopes to build a 110-megawatt (minimum) project in two phases on a hill above the famous Meager Hot Springs recreation area, which is 70 kilometres north of Whistler.
"We know there is hot water down there," Aspinall said. "The question is whether the rock is permeable so that the water can flow to the surface. If it can't flow to the surface, we don't have a project."
Meager Creek Development Corp. is a subsidiary of Western GeoPower Corp., which is traded on the TSX Venture Exchange. On July 15, the provincial Environmental Assessment Office wrote a letter to Western GeoPower Corp. stating that the project is "reviewable" and cannot proceed without an assessment.
"I also wish to confirm that federal and provincial government agencies have been notified of the proposed July 30, 2004 meeting in Vancouver to hear a presentation from you and your project team on the project," project-assessment director Derek Griffin wrote in the letter, which is posted on the Environmental Assessment Office Web site (www.eao.gov.bc.ca/).
Aspinall said the company will drill two "production-size" wells later this month. Based on the results, Meager Creek Development Corp. will decide early next year if it will submit an application for certification to the Environmental Assessment Office.
Aspinall said he didn't know how much it would cost per kilowatt-hour to generate electricity at the site. If the plant is eventually built, he said, the water would be reinjected back into the underground reservoir.
According to an article in the Straight in 2002, B.C. Hydro spent several million dollars during the 1970s and 1980s investigating the feasibility of geothermal power production at Meager Creek. B.C. Hydro discovered that underground water temperatures were as high as 295 degrees Celsius, but the underground rock wasn't permeable enough to justify large-scale production of electricity.
Around the same time, B.C. Hydro completed the massive Revelstoke Dam, creating a huge surplus of power.