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 location of any energy sources in the province.
Some small run-of-river projects have not been included.
Power Stations Currently in Operation
Hydroelectric Dam > 100 MW
Hydroelectric Dam < 100 MW
Natural Gas Plant > 100 MW
Natural Gas Plant < 100 MW
Biomass Power Plant > 100 MW
Biomass Power Plant < 100 MW
Solar PV System
Tidal Current Turbine
Access the full map here.
Power Stations Planned or Under Construction, but not yet in Operation
Biomass Power Plant
Wind Farm > 100 MW
Wind Farm < 100 MW
Run-of-River System > 100 MW
Run-of-River System < 100 MW
Tidal Current Turbine
Strong Geothermal Potential
Access the full map here.
There are two main takeaways from these maps. The first is that the province's electricity supply is almost entirely dominated by an aging network of enormous hydroelectric dams. The second is that even after years of debate, the much-touted second generation renewables like wind, solar, tidal and geothermal have made barely any inroads into the province's energy mix. The first wind farms have come online, but sizable solar, tidal and geothermal generating stations are still nonexistant. It is encouraging that every project currently proposed or under construction is a renewable, but these are uniformly quite small in scale, and much more will need to be done to meet British Columbia's growing electricity demand in the years ahead.
The dark blue markers indicate hydroelectric 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.There are also two major hydroelectric 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 hydroelectric dams and are 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.
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 accumulates from 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.
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 look to be just the forerunners of many more in the Peace Region, which is very ideally suited for wind farms. Currently five more wind farms are under construction and can be found in the proposed projects map. Read more about the promise and challenge of wind power here.
Smaller run of river generators, the teal markers, make up a tiny percentage of B.C.'s installed hydro-electric capacity. 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. Since they don't store water they rarely generate as much as their nameplate capacity. Run of river facilities are experiencing a surge in interest right now and most of the generating stations in planning or under construction in the province are small run of river systems. Read more about run of river plants here.
Diesel-electric generators 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 in their communities but are increasingly being relegated to back-up power status in exchange for more environmentally-friendly run-of-river generators. Read more about diesel-electric generators here.
The sole yellow marker is the province's only major grouping of solar PV powered buildings at the Ts-ouke band administration. 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. It is an experimental tidal turbine (think of an underwater wind turbine) that produces a tiny 0.065 MW of power, just enough 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. 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