Geothermal energy is a renewable energy source within the crust of the Earth which can be utilized for the generation of electricity; however, the oldest use has been "direct" use for heat, industrial and therapeutic purposes. Previous studies of geothermal energy in British Columbia have focused on mapping and evaluating resources for electricity generation. Direct-use geothermal development projects can use lower temperature resources, but the thermal energy, unlike electricity, cannot be transmitted over large distances. Currently in British Columbia, direct-use geothermal energy is used exclusively for hot springs developments. Worldwide, direct-use geothermal energy is more widely used in heating, agricultural, industrial, commercial, snow clearing and recreational purposes. Direct-use geothermal resources are a potentially underutilized asset in British Columbia. However, with development hurdles for direct-use applications being significantly lower than for electrical applications, there are untapped resources that could potentially be developed.
The purpose of this project was to first identify and evaluate Direct-use geothermal energy opportunities for BC communities that have the potential to reduce green-house gas emissions or be economic development drivers. To do this, a review of various Direct-use development possibilities was undertaken and compiled as applicable to BC. The gathering of detailed community information focused on the 11 sites deemed 'favourable' for electrical generation in the KWL and GeothermEx 2015 report. A list of communities associated with these sites was compiled under the assumption that if there was a resource sufficient for electrical generation, then Direct-use (with its lower hurdles to development) was possible. A total of 63 communities were contacted and provided with information about their nearby resource. In this process, the Project sought to give communities and businesses in BC an understanding of what resources are available and what steps they need take to evaluate these geothermal resources. This study did not evaluate the use of heat pumps for ground based geothermal (geoexchange).