Tidal power attracts new interest in Maritimes
New Brunswick and Nova Scotia have opted into a new study on tidal power that could see underwater turbines installed in the Bay of Fundy and in waters off five U.S. states.
Tidal power has long been talked about in the Fundy region, which boasts of having the highest tides in the world, but new technology means it's getting a fresh look.
A company in California called the Electric Power Research Institute has pooled money from seven state and provincial governments to launch the $425,000 US study. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are each contributing $60,000 US.
Oceanographer George Hagerman has scouted potential locations, including the Bay of Fundy. "In order for the capital project to pay for itself, it has to survive 20 or 30 years. And it has to produce well, and produce high reliability," Hagerman said in a corporate video touting the study.
Hagerman said the researchers are talking to eight companies about "in-stream" generators that will come on the market over the next couple of years. The Nova Scotia government says they would be similar to wind turbines in structure, but would be located underwater and wouldn't be visible from shore.
It could be five years before a turbine is actually in the water, generating electricity from the two sets of tidal flows each day.
Tidal energy compared to Saudi Arabia's oil
Maine is considering a plan to put a test generator at a site in the Lubec area.
Retired energy planner Bob Judd, a longtime fan of tidal power, lives near the site and pushed researchers to consider that area.
"It simply is a resource that our area sits on, much like Saudi Arabia sits on its oil," he told CBC Wednesday.
Daniel Leblanc, who is with the Atlantic Canada Energy Coalition, is also eager for the study to proceed.
"It does have the potential of replacing most of our energy needs in society, and in fact the Atlantic region could be a very important exporter of this energy."
Largest tidal generator produces 240 megawatts
There are currently three tidal power generators in operation in the world.
The world's largest tidal power project, the La Rance station built in France in the 1960s, generates 240 megawatts, enough energy to provide energy to about 200,000 homes.
In Nova Scotia, the Annapolis Tidal Generating Station has been operating since 1984. It uses Bay of Fundy tides to produce 20 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 4,000 homes.
A tiny station on Russia's White Sea produces half a megawatt.