Powerlines, roads, drilling and avalanches 

Rarely is there a dull moment at the Meager Creek geothermal site

Frank Baumann was just the person I needed to meet.

A tallish man whose car was full of hi-tech gadgets, yet still covered in enough dust to qualify him as a tradesman in the process of getting a job done.

Baumann is the technical director on one of the most intriguing developments to come to Canada in a long time, but he’s also the kind of guy who can be interesting for eight straight hours.

On this day Baumann, Craig Aspinall, and I drove to the Meager Creek geothermal site, which sits in the shadow of Devastation Peak and not far from Angel Falls, 70 kilometres west of Pemberton.

Rarely did we turn a bend without Baumann regaling us with the history of the area and how this might affect the geothermal energy project, which has just slipped into high gear.

Exploration on the site started in 1973 with federal funding from the Geological Survey of Canada. In the late 1970s, B.C. Hydro dug three deep holes and was actually able to extract energy. But they were, effectively, digging in the wrong place on the mountain and the site was not considered commercially viable.

In the 1990s MCDC teamed with an investor from San Francisco and higher temperatures were found, but that project ceased when they ran out of money.

Western Geopower acquired the rights to the site in 2001 and have since been raising funds to start drilling wells.

And now, as the safety systems around the site are developed and the second well is completed around the end of January, the wells will be tested for permeability. Results from those tests will then be used in a variety of presentations to government and potential investors.

If the project proceeds as planned then there should be energy being extracted and wired into households around B.C. by 2007.

But as we bumped over the logging roads that often spider-off into the wilderness, Baumann and Aspinall, who is the public policy manager for the project, explained why the area would be so important when it comes to "putting in the power lines."

With autumn working its yellow and red magic on the trees surrounding both sides of the road, Baumann explained that the road would, ideally, be the route for the power lines from the geothermal site to the B.C. Hydro substation in Pemberton.

The conversation would later change to how deep the drilling was going and what might stop the drillers from hitting their mark in time. The purpose of the drilling is to allow the developers to gauge how permeable the rocks are – the more permeable they are the more efficient the mine will be and therefore, the more money there is to be made.

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