Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Nova Scotia to Test New Wave of Tidal Power in Bay of Fundy

The province is ready for a new tidal power project in the Bay of Fundy.

The Energy Department will announce today which companies will be involved in a demonstration facility off Cape Blomidon that's supposed to begin turning the world's highest tides into electricity next year.

Premier Rodney MacDonald will make the announcement in Parrsboro, Cumberland Co., where the new power plant will be located.

"This is an opportunity for our province that I believe will pay dividends in the future," MacDonald told reporters yesterday.

Nova Scotia Power Inc. already has a 20-megawatt tidal plant at Annapolis Royal, built in 1984. It's essentially a kind of dam. Ebb tides pouring out of the Annapolis River estuary pass a turbine and generate power.

Much more energy is available in the Minas Channel, where the new pilot project is going. An estimated eight billion tonnes of water pass through the channel, four times each day.

Rather than throwing a dam across it, proponents will build in-stream turbines that will take energy from the current passing through the channel. A 2006 report for the U.S.-based Electric Power Research Institute said about 15 per cent of the channel's energy can be harnessed for power generation, without harming the environment.

The province is allowing proponents to build one common test facility, with three berths for testing different types of generators. One source said none of the technologies being tested will be visible from land.

There are a few in-stream tidal devices in use elsewhere in the world. It's unclear how they would stand up to the silt and ice of the Minas Channel.

The province said last August it's looking for "the most efficient, durable, non-invasive technology in existence" to harness Fundy tides.

Tidal power is seen as an important renewable resource for a province that currently relies on imported coal for most of its electricity. But there are limits to how much coal it's likely to replace. The peak flows of tides do not necessarily coincide with peak demand for energy. The premier said he believes tidal power can supply about 15 per cent of Nova Scotia's electricity needs.

Here is the full article.