“I think last night there were hardly any accommodations in town and all the restaurants were full,” tidal developer Dana Morin told an audience of about 200 today during a big tidal symposium at the Parrsboro Legion.
“That is a good thing,” he added. “I’m happy.”
Morin is director of business development at Fundy Tidal Inc., a company on Brier Island that is developing four small-scale community tidal projects in Digby County and another in Cape Breton.
He said that the idea for developing a tidal industry on Brier Island came about as community leaders discussed how to reverse the collapsing local economy and the loss of people migrating to jobs elsewhere.
“All the kids were gone, we were down to six kids on Brier Island and the school’s closed,” he said adding that the population has gone from about 2,000 to only 213.
“The questions were, how do we bring our kids home, how do we attract new residents and visitors because they knew that if we didn’t bring up the population, there was no tax base, there would be no barbershop…and why I went there, my pub, would not be there either.”
Morin told the conference that the leaders went through a long process of figuring out Brier Island’s strengths and weaknesses and finally decided on a solution.
“We thought it would be the tide,” he said. “We figured if we could get a tidal project, the first (small-scale one) in the world, that would be significant and there would be a lot of work and activity getting there and more important the operating and maintenance would be 20 years.”
But he added the leaders recognized that something more would still be needed to revive the local economy, so they hit upon the idea of becoming world leaders in tidal research.
“If you can become the research centre, the FORCE type of place for small-scale, that would bring all the universities which it has,” he said adding that three universities and the Nova Scotia Community College are now conducting research on Brier Island.
“We got about, I just took count, about five-and-half million in research money and (we’ve been) very busy this summer. What’s filling our bed and breakfasts and restaurants is young people (from the universities).”
Morin added that after Fundy Tidal Inc. starts deploying its first turbines in December 2016, the company is hoping to put what it has learned to work by providing expertise to tidal projects all over the world.
Benefits for Cumberland C0.
Today’s symposium was organized by the Cumberland Energy Authority, a partnership between Parrsboro, the former town of Springhill and Cumberland County.
Ray Hickey, who serves as vice-chair of the Energy Authority, told the symposium the aim is to get as many economic benefits for this area as possible.
“As we all know, people are leaving, our populations are shrinking,” he said, “and we want to see that change.”
He added that a tidal industry here could help foster an economic environment that would re-create what he called family values.
“How many of us know someone that’s very close to us that has moved west for work,” he said adding, “I have about five close family members working out in Alberta right now. Wouldn’t it be awesome if they were here?”
Aside from creating jobs, Hickey said the tidal industry could make Cumberland County into a world leader in both marine renewable energy and the campaign against climate change.
Today’s session at the Parrsboro Legion was the second day of the symposium. The first was held yesterday in Springhill where Heather Spidell and her colleague Cindy James, co-founders of Rural Energy, spoke about their April trip to tidal sites in Spain, Ireland and Scotland.
Today, Spidell repeated her message that it’s important to ensure that local communities are fully involved as tidal projects move ahead.
“But more than that,” she added, “the game to be won or lost is whether the community realizes the benefit of tidal power development in their own backyard.”
Spidell said tidal technology is going to be developed whatever happens.
“I think we have more work to do, particularly in Parrsboro, to mobilize and try to understand what business opportunities there are here for locals,” she said.
“This isn’t about job creation as much as it is about career creation and I think there are opportunities here, in the R & D phase, that we need to spend some time understanding.”