Welcome to Beautiful BC
British Columbia is:
- first in Canada in using biomass to generate electricity
- Canadaís leader in hydrogen and fuel cell research, development and implementation
- developing its geothermal resources
- second in Canada in hydroelectricity generation
- second in Canada in natural gas reserves and production
Which all means BC promotes clean energy. And it wants to do more. The aim of BCís new energy plan is to be self sufficient in energy while taking responsibility for its environment. That means using energy sources that are relatively clean and lower in GHG emissions than other fuel types.
1. Biomass is carbon neutral
Tour Stop: Duncan, British Columbia
BC has many biomass sources: logging debris, sawmill residue, pulping liquor, agricultural and municipal waste, and more recently, timber damaged by the mountain pine beetle. All of which can be used to produce electricity or heat or both at the same time. And the good thing about biomass is that whether itís generating energy or decomposing naturally, it releases no more carbon than it absorbed during its lifetime. This means that using biomass in place of non-renewable fuels reduces greenhouse gas emissions.
For example, timber that has been damaged by the mountain pine beetle canít be used for conventional purposes but it must be harvested to prevent the beetleís spread. So, the BC government, as part of its new bioenergy strategy, has instituted a program to use the damaged timber as a fuel source for generating heat and electricity.
What road trip would be complete without a museum? Forestry has always been an essential part of BCís economy, and now itís integral to the provinceís energy strategy too, so Norm took a savvy visit to the BC Forest Discovery Centre. Woodnít you?
2. Hop on the Hydrogen Highway
Tour Stop: Victoria
When hydrogen is used to power vehicles or anything else for that matter, the exhaust consists of heat and water instead of GHGs, and oxides of nitrogen and sulphur. Weíve heard of the hydrogen economy, but in BC itís really moving forward.
British Columbia's Hydrogen Highway is a partnership of Canadian hydrogen technology developers, hydrogen technology users and government organizations. Its purpose is to demonstrate hydrogen fuel cell technology, applications and market deployment with a goal of establishing Canada as a leader in hydrogen fuel cell investment, research and implementation. Project sites are located along the hydrogen highway from Victoria to Whistler.
He wasnít able to fill his car there, but Norm did take a look at the anchor fuelling station at BC Transitís Langford facility near Victoria. The station will dispense fuel for the Vancouver Fuel Cell Vehicle Programís Ford fuel cell vehicle. They didnít let Norm take a ride, though.
3. 275°C hotspot
Tour Stop: Meager Lake
When we think of hot springs, we usually think of soaking in the pools at Radium or Ainsworth. Relaxing is top of mind, not energy. But British Columbiaís South Meager geothermal area may be the source of something new for Canada Ė steam geothermal energy. South Meager, located approximately 170 kilometres north of Vancouver in the Upper Lillooet River watershed, has been identified as a ďhigh temperatureĒ geothermal field with measured temperatures up to 275ļC, over an area of 4.5 to 7.5 square kilometres.
The South Meager geothermal area was first investigated in the late 1970s and several test wells were drilled by BC Hydro. Since that time additional wells were drilled and in 2009, testing and simulations indicated the potential for up to 6.4 megawatts of electrical output.
So, the energy source is there whether itís used or not. And if it is used, thereís no fuel costs, and no emissions. Hot stuff.
Getting to Mount Meager isnít easy by car, but with cross-country persistence Norm was still able to get a fine view of the volcanic complex from Pemberton. Too bad Septemberís a little early for skiing. Maybe next time, Norm.
4. Number 1 source of electricity
Tour Stop: Hudsonís Hope and the Peace Canyon Dam Visitor Centre
Hydroelectricity is a clean source of renewable energy and a large component of most sustainable energy plans. BC ranks second in Canada in terms of generating hydroelectricity. In fact, BC generates almost 16 per cent of Canadaís hydroelectricity.
At the Peace Canyon Dam Visitor Centre, Norm watched 10,300 cubic metres of river flow through the dam every second. It was an impressive sight, especially since Peace Canyon Dam is only one of 71 hydro electric generating stations in BC. Thatís a lot of water, Norm.
5. 27.7 million tonnes of coal
Tour Stop: Hudson Hope
Canada ranks 13th in the world with 0.8 per cent of the worldís coal reserves. At 27.7 million tonnes per year, British Columbia is Canadaís second largest coal producer. Major BC coal fields are in the Elkford area of southeast BC and in the Peace River area of northeast.
As Norm and his car leave Hudson Hope, they notice long trains taking the coal to Vancouver, where freighters will carry it to Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Although BC mines a lot of coal, it doesnít use much. Coal is a major Canadian export.
6. 65.8 terawatts of electricity
Tour Stop: On the road to Dawson Creek
British Columbia ranks third in electricity generation in Canada, producing about 11 per cent of the countryís total. And while a lot of it is used in BC, a lot is sent to Alberta and some is sent to the United States. Being able to transmit clean electricity from one place means that we can reduce emissions from less friendly sources at another place.
Just like visiting museums, no road trip would be complete without watching power line snake across the landscape. On the drive to Dawson Creek, Norm tries to amuse himself by counting to 65.8 terawatts. 1, 2, 3... The driveís not that long.
7. 102 megawatts installed capacity
Tour Stop: Dawson Creek
With all its mountains and ocean breezes, one would think BC and wind power were made for each other; however, until recently, British Columbia was the only Canadian province without wind-generated electricity. The big challenge for the wind industry in BC is location. Where the winds are suitable for turbines, accessibility is usually difficult if not impossible.
Thatís about to change.
The first of 34 wind turbines in Bear Mountain Wind Park near Dawson Creek was connected to the grid on August 6, 2009. When completed in November 2009, Bear Mountain will consist of 34 3-megawatt turbines with a combined installed capacity of 102 megawatts. So we can now add wind to BCís diversified portfolio of renewable energy.
Fifteen kilometres outside of Dawson City, Norm looks up, way up, to the wind turbines of Bear Mountain Wind Park. These turbines will soon generate enough electricity to power the entire South Peace region. Are those cattle grazing? Oops. Keep your eyes on the ground too, Norm.
8. 13.3 trillion cubic feet
Tour Stop: Fort St. John
British Columbia ranks second in Canada in both natural gas reserves and natural gas production, and natural gas is the cleanest burning fossil fuel. At the end of 2008, marketed gas production averaged 2,797 million cubic feet per day with major contributions from the Ladyfern, Greater Sierra, Monkman and Horn River fields, most of which produce from either tight sands or shale.
A few years ago, these types of reservoirs were not considered economical to produce despite the presence of large quantities of natural gas. However, new technologies and development methods have addressed this and ensured a continuing supply for the future. More homes in Canada are heated by natural gas than by any other means.
Itís getting a bit nippy up here, but Norm soldiers northward to the site of the provinceís first natural gas field, discovered in early 1950s. Itís also Normís last stop in British Columbia. So long BC, hello YK!