IN DEPTH: Fundy tidal boost

The government of the Canadian province of Nova Scotia has given a C$4m shot in the arm to its nascent tidal power industry, with plans to fund a step-up of electrical throughput at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (Force) testing centre in the Bay of Fundy.

Announcement of the project, which will boost connection capacity at Force to 20MW, enough to accommodate a number of small industrial tidal arrays, comes as the authorities awarded the last two berths at the facility to Ireland’s OpenHydro and Canadian outfit Black Rock.

"I'm committed to advancing the tidal sector and Force plays an important role by providing the platform for industry leaders to develop and test their technology in one of the best tidal resources in the world,” states Nova Scotia energy minister Andrew Younger. “Our investments today are shaping the new tidal sector of tomorrow."

OpenHydro – which in 2012 vacated Force with partner Emera after the Nova Scotia-based energy company got cold feet over the technology’s field-readiness following a difficult first turbine deployment – aims to build a fully grid-connected 4MW array made up of pair of 2MW machines at the site, located in the Minas Passage.

Working with Emera and local contractors Irving Shipbuilding, Irving Equipment and Atlantic Towing, OpenHydro expects to have the two 16-metre-diameter “open centre” devices up and running next year. The company, now owned by French naval giant DCNS, plans to use the demonstration project as a stepping stone to a 300MW development in the area.

“OpenHydro is proud to have been the first technology installed in the Bay of Fundy and we remain convinced of the potential of the region as a major source of clean renewable energy,” says DCNS energy business unit senior vice president Thierry Kalanquin,

“This project represents an important step in building a local tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia and a next step in the development of commercial tidal farms in the region.”

Black Rock, a Halifax-based company with European and Canadian partners, including German marine industry giant Schottel and UK’s Tidal Stream, plans to install a prototype of its Triton technology, a design made up rows of rotors set within two floating buoys and anchored to the seabed by a hinged gravity base.

The company says the first "platform”, carrying 16 of 36 turbines, will be deployed next year, with a “stepwise” build-up to full capacity of 2.5MW in 2016.

Schottel chief executive Gerhard Jensen says: "Nova Scotia is a leader in [the] field [of tidal power], and the world will be watching closely as we demonstrate how tidal power can be affordable, environmentally friendly and extremely effective."

Existing Nova Scotian berthholder, Minas Energy, has meanwhile announced it is going ahead with plans to team up with Germany’s Siemens-MCT and Bluewater Energy to demonstrate the former’s floating 2MW SeaGen F prototype.

The new-look multi-megawatt device builds on the 1.2MW SeaGen demonstration turbine running in Northern Ireland’s Strangford Lough since November 2008, with plans being incubated at Siemens to develop the 8MW Kyle Rhea project in Scotland and the 10MW Anglesey Skerries project in Wales.

“The SeaGen F complements our strategy of a standardised energy conversion chain including powertrain, inverters and transformers for multiple support structures,” says Kai Koelmel, vice president of Siemens’ Hydro and Ocean Power business.

"Minas Energy is confident that our partnership with Siemens and Bluewater will help set the stage for the emerging tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia," says Minas Energy vice-president of energy development John Woods. "We look forward to working with the other berth holders, government and the public at large as we learn to harness this world-class resource."

Leases for the remaining berths were earlier awarded to projects from Alstom/Clean Current, and Atlantis/Lockheed Martin/Irving Shipbuilding.

Tides travel at up to 5.5 metres per second at Force, built on the Bay of Fundy’s Minas Passage, a stretch of water calculated to a resource potential of some 2.5GW of tidal power that can be “safely harvested” without negative impact on the local ecosystem.