Industry welcomes UK-Nova Scotia agreement

Tidal insiders have welcomed Nova Scotia and the UK’s memorandum of understanding to help the industry. But more needs to be done to foster commercialisation.

By Jason Deign on Apr 22, 2014

Tidal industry sources have welcomed an agreement between the administrations of the UK and Nova Scotia, Canada, aimed at fostering the industry. However, some think further measures are needed to give the sector the support it really needs.

The memorandum of understanding announced this month builds on existing links between tidal research centres such as the European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney, Scotland, and the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) in Nova Scotia.

Under the terms of the agreement, “the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia and the UK Technology Strategy Board will encourage joint research in order to improve the technology required to generate electricity using high tides,” according to a press release.

James Ives, chief executive at DCNS-owned OpenHydro, the tidal developer that lost a prototype in the Bay of Fundy due to unforeseen and unforgiving tidal conditions, believes the initiative is good news for the industry.

"We welcome the collaborative agreement recently signed between Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom to work together to advance tidal research and bring our industry closer to commercialisation,” he says.

“The announcement of available funding to encourage joint research builds on the work and close cooperation that is already in place between bodies such as EMEC and FORCE.”

Commitment of government

Ives believes the memorandum “is further evidence of the commitment of government, at national and local level, to support the development of its marine energy resources."

But Aris Karcanias, managing director of the Economics and Financial Consulting Practice at FTI Consulting, which works with tidal companies such as Atlantis Resources, believes more could be done to help companies in the sector.

“These deals are struck by politicians,” he says. “It’s very politically driven. What matters is more about what gets projects off the ground. That should be the focus. The point is you’re still getting insufficient support for a relatively immature technology to get going.”

For now, each of the two research bodies in the agreement has committed CAD$250,000 (GBP£136,000) to the initiative, as well as being responsible for most of the work involved.

The areas of research that will be covered include environmental sensing and instrumentation technology “to better understand high-flow tidal resources and their environment within the Bay of Fundy and Orkney, Scotland,” says the announcement.

The Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia and the UK Technology Strategy Board are expected to issue requests for research proposals going forward. The first request, focusing environmental sensing research, will go out later this year.

The alliance was announced by the Nova Scotia Energy Minister, Andrew Younger, the Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia’s executive director, Stephen Dempsey, and the British High Commissioner to Canada, Corin Robertson, in Halifax.

Younger said: “Bringing together tidal energy leaders from Nova Scotia and the UK will help advance efforts to harness the power of Fundy tides. Collaborating on tidal development will help us save money and increase our research capacity.

“It will also create opportunities for businesses and researchers in both Nova Scotia and the United Kingdom.”

Robertson added at the time: “The UK sees the development of its marine energy resources as an important step towards meeting our renewable energy objectives.

“This memorandum will not only advance the state of research in this area, bringing us closer to grid connectivity and commercial production, but will encourage the development of a low-carbon industry with great economic potential.”

The memorandum comes as research and development efforts are being stepped up both in Orkney and the Bay of Fundy.

Undersea conditions

EMEC, for example, has recently been given funding for its Integrated Marine Energy Measurement Platform, which will allow continuous monitoring of undersea conditions and give developers a richer data set to work from.

"This new site characterisation and measurement platform will work to provide us with important data, which will give us a better understanding of the environment and help accelerate our technological developments," comments Ives.

Meanwhile, a strategic partnership to develop a 3MW across three locations in the Bay of Fundy has been defined in recent weeks. The companies involved include Tribute Resources, Fundy Tidal and Tocardo International.

Dutch tidal turbine producer Tocardo will work with Tribute to deliver the first stage of the project in the Digby Gut of the Bay of Fundy. This will include the installation of a 1.95MW array of Tocardo T200 tidal turbines. Fundy Tidal will act as project developer and operator.

The news follows new provincial tidal energy regulations, announced in January, which will allow early-stage projects to connect to Nova Scotia's power grid.

The regulations were developed after the province's Utility and Review Board set a feed-in tariff for the tidal projects last year.

The Nova Scotia Department of Energy estimates it will be early 2015 before a turbine, or a group of turbines, are in the water at FORCE in the Minas Channel and producing electricity.