|Over 100 Years of Micro Hydro
A hundred years ago Britannia Beach was a very remote little village on the BC coast. There were no roads or rails and certainly no power lines leading to it. If a mine was to open it was going to need power so there was no choice but to produce electricity here.
By the time the mine opened up in 1904 it already had infrastructure in place to make hydro electric power. There was a small dam up the valley and a powerhouse right above the high tide mark, along with water pipe lines and power lines.
Miles of wood stave pipes were made in the same way as a barrel with wooden planks and metal bands to hold the pipe together. By the time water was piped from a dam in the valley all the way to the powerhouse it was under a lot of pressure, about 800 psi. When the pressure was more than the wood pipes could handle, steel pipes were used. This high pressure was then used to spin pelton wheels - a type of water turbine - to create electricity.
A small power plant just above the high tide mark was replaced in 1913 by the Beach Powerhouse near the top of Mill 2. The Tunnel Powerhouse was built two years later at the Mount Sheer Townsite, 4.5 km up the valley.
The Mine produced electricity throughout its whole operation but needed more than could be made. It took so much electricity to power the Mill building, the electric trains, the air compressors and houses that by 1923 they also bought power from BC Electric to meet the demand.
Throughout its life the Britannia Mine was a model for small scale hydro generation. Today the old powerhouses are out of commission and the community receives its power from the grid. But the 100 years of tradition continues as hydro is generated at the EPCOR Britannia Mine Water Treatment Plant and local run of the river projects.