Canada eyes in-stream tidal power

Everyone knows that the Bay of Fundy is a one big fat juicy tidal power possibility. Now there’s a real live bid to take a bite out of it – or, rather, several small bites out of it – on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay, incentivized by a feed-in tariff program that’s designed to encourage smaller-scale, locally based projects.

Fundy Tidal last week said it had successfully completed a Community Economic Development Investment Fund offering, in the process making its potential projects eligible for Nova Scotia’s community feed-in tariff (COMFIT). The COMFIT program is aimed at municipalities, First Nations, co-operatives, universities, nonprofit groups – and community economic development investment funds (CEDIFs), like Fundy Tidal.

The Clean Current turbine has a central yawing bearing to provide the turbine with the ability to orient itself directly in line with the flood and ebb tides. (image via Clean Current Power Systems)

The goal is to do local projects that are connected to the grid at the distribution level, serving the needs of local communities.

Small-scale in-stream tidal power, a technology more or less in its infancy, is the most generously supported technology of them all, at $652 per megawatt-hour.

So that’s what Fundy Tidal is chasing, and the company said it thinks it can get it with small-scale tidal projects in Digby County, at the southwestern end of Nova Scotia (1.95 megawatts in Digby Gut and 500 kilowatts in each of Grand Passage and Petit Passage). The company is also eying Cape Breton to the north (100 kilowatts in Barra Strait and 500 kilowatts in Great Bras d’Or Channel). Fundy Tidal noted that its approvals for those projects require they be operation al by 2017, “but the company hopes to have a demonstration device installed by 2015 in Grand Passage.”

It could have a test project going even sooner. Just days after announcing it had completed its funding process, Fundy Tidal said it had completed an agreement with Clean Current Power Systems “to test and demonstrate a 3.5m diameter Clean Current tidal turbine as part of a Tidal Power System (TPS), including energy storage and system controls that enable balancing of power production with community load.” The location wasn’t specified, but the project, growing out of an Acadia University research project backed by the Canadian government,  is on a fast track, with commissioning eyed by the fall of 2014.

“This is another significant step in Fundy Tidal’s goal to play a leading role in initiating tidal energy R&D activities in Digby County and seeing our COMFIT projects come to fruition,” Vince Stuart, Fundy Tidal president, said in a statement. “We consider Clean Current to be a leading tidal turbine developer in Canada and are very pleased they have chosen to work with us in Nova Scotia to test their latest technology.”

More than 160 billion tons of water flow in and out of the Bay of Fundy, more than four times the combined flow of every freshwater river in the world, and experts have estimated it could provide somewhere between between 2,500 MW and 8,000 MW of tidal. Nova Scotia would be happy with a few dozen megawatts.

* Pete Danko, EarthTechling