The map below illustrates the huge infrastructure needed to provide British Columbians with a cheap, efficient and reliable electricity supply. The map allows you to zoom down to a highly magnified view of the precise location of any energy source in the province, though several of the smaller sources have only approximate locations. Clicking any of the markers will give you information on that particular source, and helpful links for more information. The legend allows you to toggle on and off which electricity sources you can see, a feature that tends to emphasize the huge role hydro-electric dams play in the province's electricity generation.
Some small run-of-river projects have not been included.
Scroll down beneath the map to read short explanations of the role each of these energy sources plays in our province's electrical grid.
The dark blue markers indicate hydro-electric dams. There are over 30 of them, which together generate over 86% of the province's electricity. Most of these dams were constructed in two major building booms during the 20th Century: the first from the 1920s to the 1940s and the second from the mid-1950s to the 1970s. The two great rivers in the province's east, the Columbia and the Peace, are heavily dammed and essential to the provincial electrical grid. Three dams on these rivers, the Mica, Revelstoke and W.A.C. Bennett, generate over half the province's electricity alone. A number of smaller dams are clustered around the Lower Mainland and the east coast of Vancouver Island near the province's population centres. Outside of that two major hydro-electric systems are located along the Kootenay River outside Castlegar, and on the Bridge River watershed outside Lillooet. Taken together B.C.'s dams have a generating capacity of nearly 11,000 MW. Read our profile on hydroelectric dams here.
Indicated by red markers, the province's small fleet of natural gas-fuelled thermal plants are the province's most important back-up energy to hydro-electric dams, relied upon during peak hours or when water levels are low. By far the largest of these is the 950 MW Burrard thermal station, which meets peak demand in the Lower Mainland. The Fort Nelson and Prince Rupert thermal stations are also designed to meet peak demand. Two privately-owned facilities, the Island Cogeneration Plant just outside Campbell River, and the McMahon Cogeneration near Taylor, plant have much higher efficiency by using waste steam to power industrial processes. Learn more about natural gas and the technology behind it here.
Smaller run of river generators, the light blue markers, make up a tiny percentage of B.C.'s installed hydro-electric capacity. One of the oldest run of river plants, the Aberfeldie plant near Cranbrook has been open since 1922, proof positive that this hydroelectric technology has a long history in B.C. Though only three run of river plants are listed on the map there are in fact over 30 contributing power to the electricity grid. However unlike most water storage dams, very few run of river facilities have nameplate capacities over 25 MW; because they do not store water they generate their nameplate capacity of electricity for an even shorter portion of the year. Run of river facilities are experiencing a surge in interest right now and most of the projects under construction (white markers) are run of river. Read more about run of river plants here.
Some of B.C.'s pulp and lumber mills are powered by on-site biomass power plants, the green markers. These burn immense amounts of waste wood that accumulate from the mills day-to-day operations. The 60 MW Williams Lake Power Plant is the largest in North America, burning approximately 600,000 tons of sawdust and bark annually. You can read more about biofuels here.
Diesel-electric generators, the brown markers, are used at a number of remote communities throughout north-central and north-western B.C. that remain unconnected to the electrical grid. These generators are essential for their communities but are increasingly being relegated to back-up power status in exchange for run-of-river generators. Read more about diesel-electric generators here.
The pink markers are the province's first wind farms, Dokie Wind Farm and Bear Mountain Wind Park. The farms consist of roughly 75 metre tall turbines (not including the blades) which are connected to the provincial power grid in B.C.'s northeast. These farms looks to be just the forerunners of many more in the Peace Region, which is very windy. Currently five more wind farms are under construction and can be found under the white markers. Read more about the promise and challenges of wind power here.
The sole yellow marker is the province's only major grouping of solar PV powered buildings at the Ts-ouke band's administration buildings. While many homes use solar panels to heat their homes and their water, nowhere else does this occur on a commercial or institutional scale. You can learn more about solar power here
The province currently has only one tidal power array, in very light blue, which is an experimental one used to power the lighthouse and surrounding buildings on the island of Race Rocks just off Victoria. We have included a second at Canoe Pass, much larger at 0.5 MW, though it has not been built yet. You can learn more about tidal power here.
B.C. has yet to build a single geothermal power plant, though many people in the province rely upon geothermal energy for basic home heating. B.C. has many promising geothermal resources though, and those have been indicated here in dark red. As geothermal appears to be an energy source with strong development prospects in the future, these will likely be the first regions to see development. You can learn more about geothermal power here
The white markers are new power projects that are under construction. All have been awarded Power Purchase Agreements by B.C. Hydro, as part of the company's Clean Power Call, and all of them will be coming online in the next several years. All of the projects are run of river (three of which are not shown), except for five wind farms and a small dam. The largest projects are the wind farms, though some of the run of river plants are quite large by that technology's standards.