Bay of Fundy tidal project draws closer to power generation

Nova Scotia is one step closer to connecting the power of the Bay of Fundy tides with the grid.

The Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy announced it successfully installed the second of four underwater cables in the Minas Passage on Sunday.

“What this project means for FORCE is that it’s the final piece of our puzzle to complete our infrastructure,” Anne-Marie Belliveau, director of operations at FORCE, said in an interview Monday.

“Once we have these cables down, these international developers can come to our site and essentially plug in their turbines to our cables and be feeding electricity right to the Nova Scotia power grid.”

The cables are between two and three kilometres long and each can carry up to 16 megawatts — “enough to power over 6,000 homes during peak flows,” the group said in a news release issued Monday.

The centre has four full-time staff and about a half-dozen part-time or contract workers, but such a big marine operations project also employs dozens of Nova Scotia contractors to make it a reality, Belliveau said.

The remaining cables are expected to be installed in the next few weeks, she said, but that depends on several factors, including weather.

“It’s a very challenging site. People lay power cables all over the world, but they tend to avoid sites like this.”

Last month, workers began installing connectors to the cables to seal and protect the ends that will remain in the water off Parrsboro awaiting hookup to turbines, the first of which is expected to hit the water in 2015.

These cables mark the end of the centre’s work to make the site ready for four groups of companies — one led by OpenHydro (owned by DCNS Group of France), Black Rock TidalPower Inc. (owned by Schottel of Germany), the Minas Energygroup and the Atlantis Resources Ltd. group — to begin testing their turbines.

However, FORCE will remain as host for the developers and continue to act as “a watchdog in terms of environmental monitoring,” Belliveau said.

After the cable project, the centre will continue with a $10-million sensor technology program. An underwater platform containing specialized equipment will be attached to a data cable installed last year, allowing for real-time measurements of conditions in the Minas Basin.

The platform, which Belliveau said is expected to be deployed next year, will also allow for scientists outside FORCE to use their own equipment on the platform to conduct research in the region.

The centre and its work on tidal energy has generated such interest among those expected to attend the upcoming International Conference on Ocean Energy that additional visits to the site have been included in the program.

Belliveau said the centre, which welcomed visitor No. 5,000 on Monday, is preparing for four bus loads of people during the conference, being held for the first time outside Europe next month.

“This industry is still new, but it’s starting to move forward very quickly and we’re definitely working on making Nova Scotia and Canada one of the pioneers in this industry,” Belliveau said.

Provincial Energy Minister Andrew Younger said in an interview Monday that his counterparts in Europe are keeping a close eye on the happenings in the Bay of Fundy and the potential being developed there.

If all goes as planned, there will be an array of turbines in the water providing energy to Nova Scotia homes next year.

“There will be multiple devices connected at one spot, and if that happens that will be the first time that’s been successfully done anywhere in the world,” he said.

Customers likely won’t notice a big difference in what they pay for power in the early stages, Younger said, because the four berths are only expected to produce up to 20 megawatts of power, and at this point the rate is set for experimental tidal devices.

“What will really matter is when we get out, whether it’s 10 or 15 years, and we have commercial-size arrays with dozens of tidal turbines sitting on the bottom of the Bay of Fundy.”

Companies are working toward making tidal energy competitive with wind energy in terms of rates, he said.


Source: Herald Business
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