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Search for geothermal sources in Kootenay Lake area continues

A geothermal source could possibly provide limitless sustainable energy
Kootenay Lake is seen here from Pilot Bay. A society is searching the lake for sources of geothermal energy. Photo: Kelsey Yates

by John Boivin

Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Valley Voice

People looking into the potential of tapping into geothermal energy around Kootenay Lake say they made some promising finds during their second exploration season.

A member of the South Kootenay Lake Community Services Society said results of Phase Two of the Kootenay Lake Geothermal project they co-sponsor make continuing the effort to look for commercially viable geothermal vents worthwhile.

“We have an anomalously high geothermal spring flow. We have hot springs. Those are all very positive,” said Dan Gatto, a volunteer with the society who is working on the project. “The work we saw in Phase Two supported our hypothesis of an active thermal system, and the data we collected was positive, leading to a slightly larger Phase Three program.”

People have known about geothermal energy in the area for millennia, but the society’s project is taking in-depth geological, geochemical and geospatial assessment to determine if there’s any way to tap this essentially limitless source of sustainable energy.

The summer saw students using drones and boots on the ground to measure various aspects in the area between Riondel and Grey Creek, to the north and south of Kootenay Bay. That’s led to some potential leads, Gatto told the RDCK’s Community Sustainable Living Advisory Committee (CSLAC) on Feb. 14.

“There’s more here we need to do in terms of geochemical sampling – maybe a bit more work with thermal imaging,” Gatto told the committee. “All in all, very positive.”

Work will continue in the Crawford Creek area and west of the Orebin Creek fault to define those possible strikes.

“Success with Phase Three could lead to drilling one or two test wells in the next 12-to-24 months,” he said.

If they strike 40-to-80 C water in the next phase, a direct-heat geothermal demonstration project could be underway within two to three years.

The project is being sponsored by South Kootenay Lake Community Services, with $10,000 in annual support from CSLAC. That’s about one-eighth of the project’s budget. The rest comes from other levels of government and educational institutions like Selkirk College and the University of Victoria.

The RDCK is supporting the project because of its promise to increase economic opportunities, community resiliency and provide greenhouse-gas-free energy. As the project moves forward, staff say private funding would be more appropriate for developing commercial uses for the energy.