The province’s Department of Energy has approved a third Digby area tidal project to receive a special rate for its electricity.
The department approved Fundy Tidal’s 500 kilowatt project for Grand Passage between Long and Brier Islands this month for its community feed-in tariff or COMFIT program.
Under the COMFIT program, open only to community-based projects, the company can sell its electricity for the set rate of 65.2 cents per kilowatt hour.
Fundy Tidal received approval for projects in the Digby Gut and Petit Passage earlier this winter; and for another project in Cape Breton this month. They are still awaiting approval for a fifth and final project in Cape Breton.
“The announcement of the Grand Passage approval is particularly significant as the village of Westport is where the vision for community tidal power projects and Fundy Tidal Inc. originated,” said Dana Morin of Fundy Tidal.
Morin says the company hopes to have a turbine in the waters of Digby Gut by mid-2014 and is now working through the steps towards development—public meetings, permitting and environmental assessments and financing.
“Now we’ve got about $40 million worth of projects on the table, financing has become significant,” Morin said.
Dr. Alex Hay, an oceanographer with Dalhousie University, and his students are currently extracting data from a study they did in Digby Gut for 30 days in January and February of this year.
They used acoustic instruments to measure the velocity of the currents. They will start similar studies in Grand and Petite passages after lobster season winds up there in June.
Hay wasn’t able to talk about the results of the Digby Gut study yet but says some information should be available by mid-May.
Jason Googoo of Membertou Geomatics is carrying out a Mi’kmaw ecological knowledge study for the project.
Morin says the company will be also be looking at research and operational facilities on Brier Island. Westport had proposed a facility at North Point on land owned by the Municipality of Digby.
Bird watchers have opposed that location because it is an important resting spot for migrating birds before they make the big jump across the Gulf of Maine. Some local tourism operators also oppose the proposed inclusion of accommodations and eating establishments within the new centre, which they fear would compete with existing unsubsidized businesses.
Morin says the proposal represented the village’s vision for the facility.
“How the community capitalizes on the building is their concern,” says Morin. “We’re going to be doing some testing and demonstration out there and we need a building to house that.
“We will be re-engaging on that topic in the next couple months more in earnest. We’ll have to decide then where to set up shop. We certainly don’t want to ruffle any feathers.”