Local tidal power plans given boost

John DeMings
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Developing lower priced tidal power in Digby County got a boost Friday from the federal government. Natural Resources Canada announced Friday it will contribute $1.6 million through its ecoEnergy Innovation Initiative.

Dana Morin of Fundy Tidal outlines some factors affecting development of tidal power in Digby County during a session Saturday in Digby.

The funding will go to Fundy Tidal Inc. of Westport, Acadia University, and Dalhousie University’s department of oceanography which are looking to identify the best locations for small-scale tidal power projects in Digby County.

Their efforts are part of a three-year, $3.3 million research project that aims to see actual turbines in the water—for research purposes—by 2041 or 2015.

The Natural Resources Canada funding was announced Friday in Wolfville.

Further cash and in-kind contributions for the research project are coming from the University of New Brunswick along with industry partners Dynamic Systems Analysis, Fundy Tidal, and Clean Current Power Systems Inc.

In a news release, Dana Morin of Fundy Tidal said the project plans a comprehensive site assessment to determine configuration and design of an optimal turbine array that also minimizes the cost of the electricity produced.

At a tidal power information session Saturday in Digby, Morin said cost is a basic factor in tidal power development, and underlies the need for special community feed-in tariffs (COMFIT).

“There’s no way it can develop if we can’t assure investors of a profit,” he said.

In addition to identifying sites with the greatest energy potential, the current site assessment includes determining technologies and locations that minimize interference with other water users, as well as considering the engineering, construction, and operational costs associated with different berth sites and tidal turbine technologies.

Led by Dr. Richard Karsten of Acadia’s department of mathematics and statistics, the project will focus on assessing the three small-scale tidal COMFIT sites awarded to Fundy Tidal at Digby Gut, Grand Passage and Petit Passage.

There’s no way (tidal power) can develop if we can’t assure investors of a profit. Dana Morin of Fundy Tidal

The three sites offer a range of tidal flow—from energetic to very energetic—that provides an excellent test bed for tidal energy development, and are particularly suitable for the deployment and testing of individual tidal turbines, small commercial arrays, and environmental monitoring systems.

 “The lessons learned and systems developed in Digby County will be applicable for designing and implementing energy solutions for marine communities worldwide,” according to Greg Trowse, chief technology officer at Fundy Tidal.

Initial work will focus on determining the best locations for tidal turbine berth sites.  The project team will conduct detailed characterization of tidal flows and the seabed that predict long-term flow conditions and the effects of energy extraction on the natural environment. 

Engineering analysis will be conducted to predict electrical generation and evaluate forces on turbine blades, submarine cables, and structures.  Following turbine installation, the project team will monitor turbine performance, flow conditions, and sediment mobility to evaluate the effects of energy extraction and provide information for model improvement and validation.

“This is an important step forward in achieving several milestones for Fundy Tidal and its partners and for all community stakeholders,” said Fundy Tidal president Vince Stuart. “Good science is key to the process as it enables us to make informed decisions on the development of small-scale tidal projects for Nova Scotians. We are delighted to partner with some of the best talent in the world.”

Organizations: Fundy Tidal Inc. of Westport, Acadia University, Dalhousie University Natural Resources Canada University of New Brunswick Clean Current Power Systems Grand Passage

Geographic location: Digby County, Wolfville

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