Nova Scotia

Ottawa pledges $9.6M to try to harness Bay of Fundy tidal energy again

The goal of generating large amounts of electricity from the powerful tides that sweep the Bay of Fundy received a $9.6-million boost Wednesday from the Trudeau government.

New company to try smaller turbines in quieter part of bay after two earlier attempts failed

Bernadette Jordan announced funding on behalf of Natural Resources Canada. (Paul Poirier/CBC)

The goal of generating large amounts of electricity from the powerful tides that sweep the Bay of Fundy received a $9.6-million boost Wednesday from the Trudeau government.

A Scottish company, Nova Innovation, is eligible for up to $4 million of that federal grant money for its plan to install 15 small sub-sea turbines in the Petite Passage at Digby Neck, N.S.

"There is a huge opportunity for Nova Scotia to capitalize on this resource," said Kim MacNeil, Nova Innovation's head of North American development.

The company's first 100 kilowatt turbine will go in the water next summer, with more to follow over the next two years.

The risky nature of producing commercial levels of tidal power is reflected in the high prices developers are being offered to take the plunge.

MacNeil said Nova Innovation has a 15-year deal with Nova Scotia Power to supply the utility with electricity at 50 cents per kilowatt hour — roughly three times above the rate paid by consumers, which is 15.8 cents per kilowatt hour. 

"There is a significant attraction for developers to come here and install turbines with that attractive feed-in tariff," MacNeil said.

Earlier attempts failed

The spending was announced at a tidal power technology demonstration site outside Parrsboro, N.S. The backdrop overlooking Cape Split showed no sign of the high-velocity tides that roar across the sea floor below.

But the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy has established five grid-connected berths on the floor of the nearby Minas Passage.

The only two large demonstration turbines installed in the FORCE berths both failed.

The first was destroyed within days of installation and the other remains on the ocean floor after it was abandoned by its bankrupt owner.

Still academics, engineers, entrepreneurs and politicians are not giving up.

"Every project has setbacks," said Nova Scotia federal cabinet minister Bernadette Jordan, who announced funding on behalf of Natural Resources Canada.

"But the reality is green technology is something we have to develop. We have to move away from fossil fuels and tidal energy is definitely a way forward."

Less-powerful tides

In Digby Neck, Nova Innovation has chosen a location with half the velocity of the Minas Passage, making it better suited for the company's turbines, which are already generating electricity off Scotland's Shetland Islands.

To put the difference in perspective, the two large turbines installed in the Minas Passage were capable of generating two megawatts of electricity, which is twenty times more powerful than those planned by Nova Innovation and enough to power 400 homes.

In addition to Nova Innovation, $1.5 million will go to a project led by the University of Manitoba to primarily investigate energy generated from Canadian rivers.

Another $4 million will be spent to research the environmental impact of underwater turbines on marine life in the Bay of Fundy. That includes testing and proving monitoring tools that are accepted as credible by government regulators and the public.

"They deserve to know in real time that these devices can be monitored and that is precisely the objective of the program," said Russell Dmytriw, executive director of the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia.