Events of 2012

Matt Lumley

FORCE spokesman Matt Lumley


Feb. 2012: NS government releases a “feature story” to news organizations touting the wonders of tidal power. “The Bay of Fundy, with the world’s highest tides, is helping the province become an international leader in tidal energy development. The powerful tides can provide an estimated 2,500 megawatts of power, more than Nova Scotia’s peak demand. The challenge is to develop technology that can withstand the incredible force of the bay’s currents. ‘The Minas Basin is like the Mount Everest of tidal technology,’ says Sandra Farwell, director of Sustainable and Renewable Energy with the Department of Energy. ‘If you can deploy a device here, you can deploy one anywhere in the world.’”

Feb. 2012: It’s revealed that Nova Scotia Power gave up its berth at the Minas Passage test site at the end of 2011. Doug Keefe of FORCE says it’s no surprise. NSP’s turbine from the Irish company OpenHydro was badly damaged after deployment in 2009. The province says it will issue a call for proposals for the vacated berth site later this year. Current berth holders are: Atlantis Resources of London, England with its partners Lockheed Martin Canada and Irving Shipbuilding of Halifax; Alstom of France with its partner Clean Current of Vancouver; and, Minas Basin Pulp and Power of Hantsport with its partner Marine Current Turbines of Bristol, England.

May 2012: NS government announces its Marine Renewable Energy Strategy. It calls for generating 300MW of electricity from commercial tidal power starting in 2020. That would be enough electricity to supply 10% of the province’s electricity needs. Energy Minister Charlie Parker says legislation and related regulations governing commercial tidal power will be ready by next spring. He adds that his department will ask the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board to begin the process of setting a rate, or feed-in tariff, for the big companies that plan to develop in-stream tidal projects in the Bay of Fundy.

May 2012: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald publishes an editorial noting the potential of tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, but also warning that a crucial factor will be cost. The editorial adds that “tidal power eventually has to be competitive with other forms of energy.”

June 2012: FORCE seeks proposals for equipment that will monitor the $11million cable that will connect test turbines to the onshore electrical grid. The equipment would measure movement of the cable where it connects to a turbine as well as record its underwater position, noise, vibration and impact. FORCE spokesman Matt Lumley can’t say when the cable will go in the water. The French company Alstom and its partner Clean Current of Vancouver plan to deploy a turbine in the spring of 2013 with two other projects planned for later that year. IT International Telecom of Halifax has a contract to install the cable which will be cut into four pieces, one for each test site. Each of the cable lengths will be capable of carrying 64MW of electricity.

Aug. 2012: IT International Telecom rehearses laying the electrical cable during an exercise in the Minas Passage. A barge and two 4,000-horsepower tugboats take part in the trial.

Sept. 2012: Halifax hosts an international marine renewable energy conference with hundreds of experts attending. Those experts warn about hurdles that stand in the way of developing tidal power:

(1) Dana Morin of Fundy Tidal Inc. says if tidal power projects are to be successful in small towns such as Parrsboro, it will be crucial to keep local people informed about what’s happening and to include them in the planning. “If the community is not for a project, it will be stopped,” Morin warns.

(2) David Krohn who speaks for the UK tidal industry says the number one barrier to the development of tidal power is attracting investors willing to risk their money on as-yet, unproven technologies. Krohn adds that the industry needs to get the first arrays into the water to prove to investors, the public and politicians that tidal power will work.

(3) Chris Campbell of Marine Renewables Canada says if the industry is to succeed in Nova Scotia, tidal developers will need to receive a subsidy or feed-in tariff at least three times higher than rates for conventional home electricity. Otherwise, he says, developers will go elsewhere.

(4) Anna Redden of the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute says the industry faces many technical challenges and it will be 10 to 20 years before tidal power is generated in Nova Scotia on a competitive, commercial basis. “It won’t be a huge commercial operation,” she adds. “We will learn as we go. I think it would be very foolish to plan for putting 20 or 40 or 50 units in the water within the next five years.”

Sept. 2012: Official opening of the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute at Acadia University in Wolfville. The institute’s director, Anna Redden, says Acadia has been associated with tidal power since 1915 when Ralph Clarkson, one of its engineering professors, proposed harnessing energy at Cape Split. Redden herself contributed to the environmental studies for the tidal generating station at Annapolis Royal when she was a master’s student at Acadia in the 1980s. Aside from environmental studies, Acadia faculty have been studying currents in the Bay of Fundy as well as ways of establishing sustainable communities. Now, all those working on tidal power will be part of the Acadia Tidal Energy Institute which, in turn, will work with a wide range of organizations including industry, environmental and community groups, research centres and other universities. The new institute is financed by federal and provincial governments as well as businesses.

Sept. 2012: The NS government seeks proposals for a fourth developer to join the tidal test program in the Minas Passage.

Sept. 2012: The federal and NS governments invest $31,285 each in a study looking at the location and development of a proposed tidal power servicing centre in the port of Digby. The study will assess the facilities needed as well as potential sites for a new wharf, warehousing, fabrication and servicing facilities.

Sept. 2012: The NS Energy Dept. approves a half-megawatt, in-stream tidal project in the Great Bras d’Or Channel in Cape Breton. The developer, Fundy Tidal Inc. says that before the project can go ahead, there will have to be an environmental assessment, further research to determine if it’s workable and consultations with First Nations.

Sept. 2012: The federal government announces $5 million in funding to finance what is believed to be the world’s first underwater tidal monitoring platform. The rest of the $10 million in funding comes from Encana Corp., which operates the Deep Panuke offshore gas field, FORCE and Oceans Network Canada. The monitoring platform will collect information on everything from currents and water turbulence to the behaviour of marine life in the Minas Passage.

Sept. 2012: Ocean Renewable Power Co. of Maine starts producing power for the grid with a 180-kilowatt turbine in Maine’s Cobscook Bay. It also has approval to install turbines in three sites to generate 5MW of electricity. Ocean Renewable is in partnership with Nova Scotia’s small-scale tidal company Fundy Tidal Inc. which has received provincial approval for two projects in Digby County.

Oct. 2012: Russell Stothers, chief operating officer for the Vancouver-based Clean Current Power Systems, announces the next turbine will be going into the Minas Passage during the second half of 2013. Clean Current is in partnership with the French company Alstom Hydro which has been testing the turbine at its facility in France. Meantime, FORCE says the onshore $1.7million transmission line and electrical substation needed to connect tidal turbines to the Nova Scotia Power grid are in place.

Oct. 2012: The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency announces that the federal and provincial governments and the Municipality of the District of Digby are cost-sharing a new study worth close to $100,000 that will look at establishing a tidal energy servicing centre on the shores of the Annapolis Basin. The service centre would repair underwater turbines and other equipment as well as conducting research and development. Ben Cleveland, mayor of Digby says a tidal servicing facility could employ hundreds of people in the area. A consultants’ report released in 2011 recommended Digby as the best location for a servicing centre.

Dec. 2012: The provincially funded Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia issues a request for proposals for an up-to-date look at the potential environmental effects of tidal projects in the Bay of Fundy. (The last such assessment was conducted in 2008). Aside from an examination of environmental issues, the $200,000 to $250,000 study would consult stakeholders and communities, including First Nations.

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