The Canadian government has given a strategic boost to the country’s promising but long-suffering tidal and river-current power industry with C$9.4m ($7.1m) in funding for a quartet of projects, led by a multi-turbine development in the high-energy waters off the province of Nova Scotia.

The UK’s Nova Innovation was awarded $4m via Natural Resource Canada’s (NRCan) Energy Innovation programme to build a five-unit array using its D2T2 design – which has undergone scale testing off Scotland’s Shetland Islands – at a site in the Bay of Fundy’s Petit Passage, where currents speed in at five metres per second.

Funding also went to Nova Scotia’s Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (Force) for a risk-assessment programme for fish and marine mammals inhabiting areas where tidal devices will be operating, as well as to the University of Manitoba to advance research on river hydrokinetic technologies, and to consultancy OERA for research into an environmental impact monitoring system for the future in-stream arrays.

“Investing in new kinds of energy production, like tidal energy, creates jobs in Nova Scotia and across Canada,” said minister of natural resources Seamus O’Regan. “Investing in tidal energy helps get us to zero emissions by 2050.”

Canada’s minister of fisheries and ocean Bernadette Jordan stated: “With the longest coastline in the world, Canada should be a global leader in tidal energy. This renewable energy source has the potential to substantially grow our blue economy in the long term, but we need to invest now.

“There are brilliant teams across this country who are working toward this vision, and our government wants to be a partner in their efforts,” she said. “So, we’re proud to invest in four innovative projects that share a single goal: to build a thriving tidal power industry across Canada.”

Kim MacNeil, Nova Innovation’s head of North American business development, said the funding represented “a huge step forward for tidal energy in Nova Scotia and Canada”.

“We’re confident we’ll be key to making tidal energy an invaluable resource for Nova Scotians,” he stated, noting that “support from NRCan [gives the sector] added momentum in a time when the world is working to recover from the economic effects of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

Canada’s tidal industry showed early promise of commercialisation in the early- to mid-2010s, with turbine prototypes from Siemens-owned Marine Current Turbines, Alstom/Clean Current, Atlantis Resources and OpenHydro all lining up for installation at the Force centre’s berths off Parrsboro.

But investor backing weakened after the poor performance of the first units tested in the tumultuous environment of the Bay of Fundy, which lays claim to being the most extreme tidal resource in the world with 115 billion tonnes of water surging in and out of the bay twice-a-day, creating a resource from which the province has calculated some 7GW of power could be commercially extracted.

Writing in Recharge, Elisa Obermann, executive director of Marine Renewables Canada, the national industry association for the country’s tidal, wave, river current, and offshore wind sector, said: “Canada is entering a new chapter in development – one that may just have the right elements in place to move the needle enough that marine renewable energy is solidified as having an important role in our low carbon future.”

The international tidal industry has regrouped in recent years, seeing a ranges of successes including development of a first array off Scotland, Simec Atlantis’s up-to-398MW MeyGen and several new turbine designs, including Orbital Marine Power’s 2MW O2.

Meanwhile, in Canada, DP Energy announced last year it would be developing its 9MW Uisce Tapa project, using Andritz turbines, at Force, and UK outfit Sustainable Marine Energy and Canada’s Minas Tidal agreed to co-develop their test berths at the centre as a like-sized project.