“Radio Malibu” KBUU-LP (99.1) is now operating using solar power, the first phase of the station setting up emergency communications for Malibu High School and Malibu City Hall.
During the Woolsey Fire that devastated the area in November, “Radio Malibu” broadcast information for the local community until it was knocked off the air when power lines were lost in the wildfire.
The installation of solar panels comes courtesy of a grant from the Malibu Foundation and relieves the station of counting on gas-powered generators in case of another power outage.
“We’ve burned about 3,200 gallons of gas to stay on the air since Nov. 16,” General Manager Hans Laetz told The Malibu Times. “Nothing will be better than getting off the grid and going solar.”
Now that the station can rely on solar panels, the next phase of keeping the community connected during times of emergency is the installation of a new microwave data link from Santa Monica High School to Malibu High School (MHS).
“MHS, like the rest of Malibu, is vulnerable to loss of phones and internet when Southern California Edison turns off the power in Santa Anas,” Laetz continued. “Radio Malibu” will provide a microwave relay site at their transmitter, which sits 825 feet above sea level. “We hope to have a 100mbs signal pathway set up between MHS and Santa Monica High in 30 days—powered with solar panels and batteries,” he said. “Santa Monica High School will connect that to the outside internet.”
Plans are in motion to extend the microwave data link to Malibu City Hall, which will give the city emergency services access to the internet during power outages, such as last fall’s wildfires. “It’s critical that City Hall has a solar/battery connection to the outside world in case a blackout or downed power pole takes out their internet and internet-based phone system,” Laetz said. The connection will also be provided to Malibu’s elementary schools.
KBUU is also planning to install boosters to extend the signal reach of the low power station to eastern Malibu and the far western parts of the city.
“The Malibu Foundation is underwriting the substantial construction projects and paying for the contract engineers and electricians, plus our legal fees at the FCC,” Laetz continued. “They’re supporting ways to harden the entire fire-ravaged area—not just Malibu—against the effects of global warming.”