Malibu Hydro...Why Hydro?                                  To index

Why we need to build this hydro plant:

(Note, this was written as of 2002 in the planning stages):

    Our goals in developing this Hydro Electric Project center around keeping the camp's operating costs low, thus continuing to make Malibu accessible and affordable for kids. The Hydro Project would also reduce air and noise pollution in the camp and neighboring inlets, decrease our dependency on diesel generators, limit the amount of fossil fuels burned to a bare minimum, and lessen the risks involved in the transportation and storage of diesel fuel. These important benefits of converting to hydro electric power will reduce the potential risk of damage to the environment while at the same time allow more kids and adults to experience the beauty of one of British Columbia's most spectacular marine areas.

One of a thousand water falls in the area following a rain.
Waterfall on McCannel Creek.

Building expansion and increased demand:

    Malibu is in a constant state of renewal and growth. Camper numbers continue to put pressure on the limited resources currently available. Old buildings are gradually being upgraded or replaced, and new ones added. This inevitably results in a demand for increased water and power. While improved building techniques results in more comfortable accommodations, this does not appreciably reduce the energy demand, as few buildings make provision for electric heating. On the other hand, electric hot water and lighting are a part of most new building, and this does put an increased demand on the system.

    The trend now is to extend the operating season beyond the traditional summer months. This enables more campers to attend Malibu, and assists in generating needed operating revenue. It also puts a greater demand on the physical plant, including power. Where as in past years a small diesel generator would maintain all electrical needs for nearly eight months of the year, it is now becoming increasingly necessary to run a much larger engine for up to six months of the year.

    It would be prohibitively expensive to burn diesel to generate electricity for space heating in the cooler season. However, much of the cool season corresponds to times of higher stream flows, and this could be harnessed and excess power used to provide space heating in the cabins.

Limited power with generators now:

    At the time this was first written, the largest installed diesel generator produced a maximum of 125 kilo watts, or about 5 average houses worth. This was at a cost of 120,000 dollars a day in 2001 fuel prices. When the system was being constructed in 2004, the fuel cost for the year was $165,000. To reduce fuel consumption, a smaller 113 kW generator was run during the night.

    Now, as of 2015 after ten years of operation, the fuel savings would have paid for the entire project several times over. We estimate we are now saving $700,000 a year. (Some what less now in 2016 since oil prices have dropped)

    Increasing the size of the largest generator would present considerable technical difficulties due to the existing electrical infrastructure. Fuel consumption and cost would rise considerably as well.

    Malibu has taken steps to conserve energy where possible. Improved high efficiency lights have been installed, and gas appliances are being used for large heating demands. This all helps, but the average base load continues to run at over one hundred thousand watts during the day.

    A useful by-product of operating the big diesel engines it the large amount of hot water produced in the cooling process. This is essential to the camps operation, and amounts to up to 3000 btu per hour per generated kilo watt hour. If heated from propane or from grid supplied electricity, the cost would be considerable. As will be demonstrated in the sections on hydro basics and engineering, an operating hydro plant will divert all excess energy directly to the task of heating water, and at no additional cost what-so-ever.

Barged in fuel costs:

    Malibu presently requires up to 80,000 liters of diesel fuel to be barged in each year. The cost of this fuel and transport is always increasing, and is in the $ 120,000 per year range now.(2001) Add to this the cost of maintenance on the engines and one can see that the per kilo watt cost of electricity is very high.

The dollar value of our own hydro generated electricity:

    As mentioned, Malibu spends approximately $120,000 per year on fuel charges. This nets us 125 kW of electrical energy, and in the range of 80 kW of recovered heat during the 4 months the big generator is operating. With the new buildings being constructed, there is a requirement for winter maintenance heat which would require running the big generators continually. The cost would be enormous.

    The present design for the hydro plant is for a 600 kW system to be built. This has the potential to produce at maximum output on a continual basis throughout the year. The dollar value for this much energy, if it was produced from a diesel engine is worth far beyond what Malibu could afford.
    As an example, if electricity costs 6 cents per kilo watt hour in the city, 600 kilo watts for 24 hours is worth $0.06 * 600 kW/h * 24 = $864.00 per day.
    For a year this is $315,360.00. Now consider the cost of barged in diesel fuel and the approximate 24 cent per hour cost for a kilo watt of electricity at Malibu. This brings the potential value of our hydro site to $1,261,440.00 per year. No wonder individuals want to get into the hydro business.

Fuel barging and storage hazards:

    The fuel barge has to come in through the Malibu rapids at slack tide, often at night. Fuel is then pumped to a large tank behind the camp, and then pumped to a smaller tank at the power house. While every effort is made to ensure the safe storage and transport of this fuel oil, there is always a risk of a spill.

Noise and pollution:

    The existing power house is situated close to the middle of the camp. This was the way the camp was first built, and so it was logical to continue on this way. Not only does it limit the electrical distribution losses, but it keeps the heat recovery water close to where it is needed.

    With this proximity to camp comes the unavoidable noise and exhaust of the diesel engines. The constant roar is heard over much of the property, with the north side of the camp being the only real area of quiet. While every effort is made to limit the noise and smoke, it is still very close to a number of cabins and dorms. It is a sound most regulars at camp come to accept, but is a rude reminder to the isolation of the camp for visitors first arriving, as the main board walk passes within 100 feet of this power house.

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