Two five-storey, two-megawatt turbines designed by Cape Sharp Tidal, a partnership between OpenHydro and Emera, and built by Aecon Atlantic Industrial Inc. in Pictou, Nova Scotia, will be installed at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) site, west of Parsborro, by the end of June.
When the 16-metre, 1,000 tonne turbines are connected to the power grid, they promise to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.
Tides in the Bay of Fundy push more than 160 billion tonnes of water twice a day, which is more than four times the combined flow of every freshwater river in the world.
If that power could be harnessed, it would provide up to 60,000 megawatts (MW) of energy, from which approximately 2,500 MW can be extracted without significantly impacting the marine environment.
At the same time as the turbine announcement, the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) has released its report summarizing tidal-energy related research undertaken in the Bay of Fundy since 2007.
“Nova Scotia has made significant efforts in understanding the environmental, scientific and technological challenges and opportunities of tidal energy” says Dr. Graham Daborn. “The province has invested considerable resources in developing an adaptive regulatory environment for tidal energy, and building a broad knowledge base about the potential and the environmental effects of tidal energy extraction.”
Nova Scotia’s Marine Renewable Energy Strategy articulates an objective of harnessing 300 MW of in-stream tidal energy after 2020, which is about 10% of Nova Scotia’s peak energy demand.
Tides moving from the outer Bay of Fundy into the smaller Minas Basin can reach peak surface speeds of five to six metres per second and rise up to 17 metres vertically, the height of a five-storey building.
Incorporated in 2009 as a not-for-profit corporation, the FORCE test facility is considered Canada’s leading research centre for in-stream tidal energy.
Five companies have been granted permission to test their technology at the demonstration site, including Minas Energy, Black Rock Tidal Power (with local and national partners Schottel Hydro and Tidal Stream), Atlantis Operations Canada (partnered with DP Energy, Lockheed Martin, and Irving Shipbuilding), Cape Sharp Tidal Venture (partnered with OpenHydro and Emera), and DP Marine Energy.
In 2014, FORCE deployed four 34.5kV sub-sea power cables for a combined length of 11 kilometres, bringing capacity to 64 MW at the site.
The installation of turbines for use in the Bay of Fundy has been a long trial-and-error process that has usually been defeated by the massive power of the bay, which can easily crush equipment.
Back in 2009, OpenHydro and Nova Scotia Power tried to deploy a one-megawatt turbine in the Minas Passage, but currents in the Bay are so powerful that the 12 two-metre long blades attached to the 400 tonne turbine simply snapped off.
That sent engineers and designers back to the drawing board to build the turbines that are being deployed now.
Nova Scotia Energy Minister Michael Samson says that renewable energy technology is estimated to be worth up to $1.7 billion to the province’s economy.
“The tidal energy sector has numerous opportunities for both clean energy and ocean sector economic activity,” says OERA Executive Director Stephen Dempsey. “We’re committed to ensuring the industry moves forward in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way. Over the past decade, the OERA has invested over $5M and funded more than 50 research projects in tidal energy alone.”
Last June, FORCE deployed two underwater monitoring platforms to facilitate real-time data collection from the Minas Passage, measuring currents and turbulence, marine life activity, noise level, and seabed stability.