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Bay of Fundy to get three test turbines

Jan 9, 2008 - David Ehrlich -

North America's first tidal power test site could be up and running as early as next year.

The government of Nova Scotia, Canada, picked three candidates to get a first shot at testing their tidal power generators in the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tides in the world.

It would be North America's first tidal power test site and it could be up and running as early as next year with turbines from Canada, the U.S. and Ireland.

"They're planning to build four subsea cables, so there's four potential berths. One may be used as a redundant cable, but there is a possibility that we'll put in four machines," Matt Lumley, a spokesman for the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, told

Before anything can go in the water, the site and the companies still need to pass some regulatory hurdles, which is why the province is referring to the companies as candidates.

One of those hurdles is the the completion of a strategic environmental assessment, due in April (see Nova Scotia looks at tidal power).

Hantsport, Nova Scotia's Minas Basin Pulp and Power will be handling the construction of the $12 million facility, which will connect all the devices to the province's electric grid.

But Minas Basin isn't just building the facility, it's also one of the candidates picked to test a turbine.

The company, which makes recycled paperboard products and already operates two hydro plants, plans to use a system from Annapolis, Md.'s UEK.

UEK, which stands for Underwater Electric Kite, has a turbine that moves like a kite, anchored to the seabed by a cable.

The size of UEK's turbine was not disclosed.

Nova Scotia Power, which provides electricity for most of the province, is teamed up with Ireland's OpenHydro Group for a 1 megawatt demonstration.

OpenHydro already has a turbine in the water at what is currently the world's only tidal test site, the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, Scotland, which also tests wave power units.

The third candidate for the Bay of Fundy project is Vancouver, British Columbia-based Clean Current, which will test its own Mark III turbine.

Clean Current said its turbine is capable of delivering 400 gigawatt hours of electricity per year.

Take a look at a Clean Current turbine being installed at the Race Rocks Ecological Reserve in British Columbia here

The companies beat out four other groups that had hoped to be first in the pool.

They're all trying to get in on Nova Scotia's target of generating nearly 20 percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2013.

The potential for tidal power in the Bay of Fundy is big, with about 100 billion tons of seawater flowing in and out of the bay each day, more than the combined flow of the world's freshwater rivers, according to Nova Scotia's Department of Energy.

But those strong tides put some limits on when a turbine can go in the water.

"You have an hour a day when you can actually put this in," said Lumley. "Two one-hour windows a day, and probably one of them is during daylight."

When fully developed, the department said the bay could generate 300 megawatts of electricity, enough energy to power close to 100,000 homes.

The project will be funded by $5 million from the government, along with a $3 million zero-interest loan from Calgary, Alberta-based oil and gas producer EnCana (NYSE: ECA).

The remaining $4 million will be cost-shared by the three tidal power candidates.

On top of the facility costs, the test candidates are likely to spend $10 million to $15 million each for the construction, installation and testing of their turbines.

"We'd like to see the technology demonstrated for at least two years," said Lumley.

He said the companies will be able to renew their terms for an additional two years at the site.

While the participating groups may move on to pursue commercial-scale projects, the test site will continue to serve demonstration units.

Once construction is complete, Minas Basin will hand over the facility to a not-for-profit corporation that will will manage the operations.



Updated: 2003/07/28