A pool of potential geothermal energy has been lying dormant in the Meager Mountain area since it was first discovered there about 20 years ago.
In the last four weeks however, the Meager Creek Development Company (MCDC), a wholly-owned subsidiary of North Pacific GeoPower Corp., has renewed its efforts to develop this "green" energy source.
Using three small wells, the company has recently started test drilling in the area, which is located about 70 kilometres west of Pemberton.
"It's very early days," said Craig Aspinall who is a consultant with MCDC. "We won't know if we have a project for two years."
The company will have to sink approximately $20 million into drilling and testing in order to find out if there is enough steaming water there to make it a commercially viable project.
"We fully expect there will be a market (in the future)," he said. "The California experience has given everyone a wake up call and a scare."
Between 1974 and 1982, B.C. Hydro spent about $30 million in a complete geothermal survey of the province.
That survey identified the Meager Mountain area as the prime geothermal site in B.C. The exploration showed there was a 250 degrees centigrade geothermal reservoir on the southern side of the mountain and the probability of a similar resource on the northeast side at Pebble Creek.
Hydro abandoned attempts to develop the site in the early 80s because the country was plunging into an economic recession and there was an abundance of relatively cheap hydroelectric energy and low-priced fossil fuels on the market at that time.
In 1988 MCDC picked up the geothermal lease and is now exploring the possibilities that lie thousands of metres below the earth's surface.
Extracting hot water from the bowels of the earth is a process similar to drilling for oil. Once the hot water is extracted, it moves into a plant where it turns turbines, which in turn produce energy.
The company has a permit for the first stage of the development process, in which test wells will be drilled up to 3,500 feet below the earths surface to ensure that the hot water is able to flow and move into a steam plant.
If the tests come back positive, MCDC will have to obtain another permit before moving to the second stage of production, scheduled for March 2002. This stage will determine if there is enough volume underground to make the project a commercial success.
The answer should be known by the fall of 2003.
If all goes according to MCDC's plan, they will be able to create a successful geothermal project there with a life span of roughly 30 years.