Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency
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Harnessing the power of the tides

Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy.
See the videos: Atlantic Canada’s Bay of Fundy is home to the highest tides in the world.

In each 12 hour tidal period, more than 100 billion tonnes of water are forced in and out of the bay, making it one of North America’s best potential sites for tidal power generation.

But a challenging environment and a complex seabed have hampered dreams to convert the Fundy’s tidal power into green electricity.

Until now.

After years of academic research and private sector development, John Woods, Chair of the non-profit Nova Scotia-based Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) says that they will soon have “the largest in-stream tidal power infrastructure in the world.”

The organization — made up of public and private developers, regulators, scientists and academics — has been busy testing four subsea turbines (that operate somewhat like underwater windmills) at its demonstration facility in the Minas Passage, 10 kilometres west of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia since 2009.

Once their facility becomes fully operational, the facility will include an interpretive centre, four submarine cables, a high voltage substation and a 10-kilometer transmission line connecting their generators to the grid.

Good thing, for an area with the potential to power hundreds of thousands of homes when the technology is fully developed.

According to John, the project is also proving a good thing for several local companies, including Minus Basin Pulp and Power in Hantsport, NS, first chosen to build the facility and ongoing partner today. Not to mention local workers.

“We’re planning to ramp up employment in the area once we get closer to installing the turbines and will need workers skilled in marine research, fabrication, and construction, as well as people to maintain the equipment and monitor the overall effect on the ecosystem,” says John.

Through the whole process, John says ACOA has been a strong partner with FORCE. “They caught on quick and shared the spirit of the program with passion and enthusiasm. ACOA’s support is helping to ignite and encourage our team.”

He says that once testing is finished on the four initial turbines, the future for this energy source is vast.  “We could have many, many more turbines installed if these ones work out,” John says.  “It’s a very exciting prospect.”

Successfully harnessing this clean, renewable resource with Canadian-made technology can only mean more investment and employment in the region.

Now that’s going with the flow.  

Published November 10, 2011