A few years ago, I went to visit some family in Bella Coola.  In case you don’t know where Bella Coola is, it’s about half-way up the province of BC right on the ocean (it’s actually at the end of a long inlet from the Pacific Ocean).  It’s an isolated and beautiful spot with about 2,000 people living in the area.

Bella Coola River Sunset
Image: Tyler Batty – River Sunset 2. License:  CC BY-NC 2.0

Aside from all of the beautiful scenery, Bella Coola has some excellent and very visible examples of electronic and electrical infrastructure in action.  The Bella Coola Valley is on its own isolated electrical grid.  All of the electricity used in Bella Coola is generated locally from two main sources, a 2.1 MW run-of-river generator and a 7 MW diesel generator.  Peak power demand in the valley is about 3.8 MW, so there is an ample supply of electricity.  The problem of course is that diesel generators produce high levels of greenhouse gases and are also very expensive to run, so there are plans in the works and being implemented to reduce the dependency on diesel.  Before I get in to that, I’ll describe the run-of-river installation first.

Clayton Falls

Clayton Falls Bella Coola

Clayton Falls is a scenic waterfall just outside the town of Bella Coola.  It also has a 2.1 MW run-of-river generator using some of the water that would otherwise go over the falls pictured above.
Clayton Falls Microhydro

I would have loved to have had a tour when I was there, but I didn’t have a chance to set one up.  I did manage to get some pictures:

The Building housing the turbine and generator

The tail race (which can give you an idea of how much water is flowing through…there’s a lot and it is actually still flowing fairly fast)
Clayton Falls Microhydro Tail Race

The buried penstock (or at least the ground underneath where the penstock lies)
Clayton Falls Microhydro Buried Penstock

Penstock Entrance to Turbine Building

I was unable to find any information showing the distribution of power output over the year, but the winter time has the lowest flow.  Unforturnately, the biggest demand for power is also the winter, so the diesel generators are required to make up the large difference between the microhydro supply and the demand.

Stay tuned for another post about the Bella Coola smart grid as well as some projects that are in the works to reduce and maybe even eliminate Bella Coola’s reliance on diesel generation.