|Malibu Hydro...Frequently Asked Questions
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email me, but enter address normally: ptalbot "at" telus.net --- Technical contact & author (Peter Talbot).
How much will it save?
The average annual fuel bill for Malibu is in the order of $120,000 Cdn at this time, (2003 prices). This does not include maintenance to the diesel engines, fuel price increases, or maintaining storage facilities. It is anticipated that the 2004 fuel costs would exceed this figure.
With the increased load on the electrical system resulting from planned improvements and new construction, the fuel bill for diesel generated power could exceed $400,000 Cdn per year for the required 400 kW. Amortization of the hydro system will depend on increases in world oil prices, and actual amount of power used from the hydro plant.
How much will it cost?
The current figure for the complete project is just over 2 million US dollars.
Why has it not been built before this?
Good question. Money has been available in the past, but the logistics have not been in place. Malibu is going through changes and there are certain priorities. Malibu has reached the limit on the diesel generators, and without abundant inexpensive energy, it can no longer grow to provide the level of service necessary.
How long will it last?
The life span of a hydro plant is measured in decades with very little maintenance. There is no reason it can not be kept operational indefinitely.
What are the operating costs?
Minor on-going maintenance of the intake and any right of way. The system will be largely automatic, with complete manual over-ride if necessary. A competent operator is required. A skilled technician is not required.
Who is the technical expertise?
All the major engineering and construction will be done by the prime contractor and several other specialized companies.
What is the bottom line for campers?
The primary goal in building this project is to keep camper fees as low as possible. In addition, future growth of Malibu will depend on a solid infrastructure of the essentials components of the physical plant, electrical supply and water being the two most obvious requirements.
What are the risks?
Now that we have committed to proceed, the major risk is financial. We must have firm commitments that funding will be available to complete the project. We are proceeding with confidence that funding will be provided as donors are made aware of the tremendous benefits that this hydro electric project will provide.
Can it be upgraded?
Generally once the penstock and turbine is installed, that sets the limit on power production. We will oversize it to accommodate future growth. Unlike diesels plants, hydro systems can operate at plant capacity with no increase in cost, other than increasing the water flow through the turbine.
Why do we have to generate more than we do now?
Diesels produce up to 40 % of their output energy as heat, which we collect through heat exchangers. This is how half the camps water is heated. Unlike diesel engines, hydro plants produce no excess heat, so to compensate, we have to generate more electrical output to make up for the difference. With hydro, it costs no more to produce 200 kW than it does 50 kW.
Why not use solar power?
It would take a vast array of solar photo-voltaic panels to come close to supplying sufficient electrical power to meet the needs of Malibu. Battery storage would be necessary for night and cloudy days. This would require an immense battery bank and huge DC to AC inverters. The cost would be out of reach, and the area taken up would more than cover the entire camp.
What about the tidal rapids?
This is a far more practical source than solar produced electricity. It has its problems however. First, the tide is only flowing for part of the time, and there are days when there is very little motion at all. Battery storage would almost certainly be necessary, and as mentioned above, this would require a huge battery bank, as well as many expensive inverters.
Secondly, the rapids are part of a coastal navigation passage, and it is not permitted to dam or block the channel in any way. The turbines needed for such a project would be large and would have to be submerged in the narrow part of the rapids for maximum output.
Where will the water go once the power is extracted?
The power house is to be located close the creek, 500 feet back from the beach and 75 feet above the water level in Jervis Inlet. The tail race, the water that has passed through the turbine, will flow directly into the inlet. There is no pollution, no change in temperature and it will be entering close to where the falls cascades into the inlet.
Will there be any noise?
No, the power house will be away from camp and hydro plants make very little noise in any case.
What is load management?
A means where by there can be a greater load connected to the power distribution system than the installed capacity of the generator. By automatically selectively shutting off lower priority loads, available power will be delivered to higher priority loads. Low priority loads that are controlled are typically water and space heating.