Nova Scotia bets on economic lift from rising tidal technology  

Posted by Big Gav in , , , ,

The Globe and Mail has an article on the slow progress towards exploiting tidal power in Canada's Bay of Fundy - Nova Scotia bets on economic lift from rising tidal technology.

Nova Scotia, with its record-setting tides, could be a world leader in tidal technology. But work is progressing at a snail’s pace in the province, while more investment is under way on the other side of the ocean, in Scotland and France.

The epicentre of Nova Scotia’s attempts to stay in the tidal game is a stretch of ocean floor near the town of Parrsboro. Here, in the Minas Basin – a huge inlet of the Bay of Fundy – the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) hopes to become a key centre of tidal power research.

FORCE, which is funded by Ottawa, Nova Scotia, Encana Corp. and several tidal technology companies, was established as a place to test in-stream turbines in one of the most powerful tidal currents in the world. Three of the four offshore “berths” are rented, but none of the organizations that have reserved them – French power conglomerate Alstom SA, British-based Atlantis Resources Corp, and local outfit Minas Basin Pulp and Power Co. – have yet to put a turbine in place.

FORCE communications manager Matt Lumley says the strength of the tidal current at the site makes it attractive to companies designing turbine technology, but that is also slowing down their arrival, as they want to make sure their devices are strong enough to survive. “We are sitting on the top of Everest” when it comes to tidal power, he said. “Everyone wants to come here, but everyone is also a bit nervous.”

An early attempt to test a turbine in this spot did not turn out well. In 2009, Nova Scotia Power and a partner, Irish company OpenHydro, deployed a $10-million prototype turbine, but the tidal current ripped the blades off the device. Mr. Lumley insists the test was not a failure, as it successfully demonstrated the incredible power of the tides. It will likely be 2015 before anyone tries again, and by that time underwater power cables will be in place, allowing the test turbines to connect to the power grid.

This part of the Bay of Fundy could eventually support support hundreds of turbines and easily generate 2,500 MW of electricity, enough to power a million homes, says Richard Karsten, a mathematics professor at Acadia University in Wolfville, N.S.

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