Tidal momentum builds at Fundy

Two Fundy-related announcements in a week point to growing momentum in the tidal industry in general and to Nova Scotia’s market in particular.

By Jason Deign on Nov 17, 2014 

Fundy is on fire. The pace of development in Canada’s tidal market has picked up in recent weeks with news of a major energy sublease signing and the completion of grid connections at Nova Scotia’s top test site.

The grid connections announcement was the culmination of a four-month project, according to Tony Wright, general manager at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE). “We’ve completed the work of laying the four power cables,” he says.

“With those four cables laid the four berth-holders can come in and be connected to the Nova Scotia grid.”

The news followed hot on the heels of a 10-year extendable sublease contract between FORCE and Atlantis Resources Limited, the company behind the world’s largest planned tidal stream project, MeyGen in Scotland, which reached financial close in September.

The energy sublease gives Atlantis a subsea berth at the Bay of Fundy test site. The company intends to use it for a single 1.5MW AR-1500 tidal turbine and is currently working with FORCE to determine the best location for the machine, which should be deployed in late 2016.

Atlantis’s chief executive, Tim Cornelius, said iat the time of the announcement that the company was “very pleased to have concluded agreements with FORCE and the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, securing a berth to deploy tidal stream turbines and deliver clean, predictable power.”

Tidal energy resource

He continued: “Canada in general, and the Bay of Fundy in particular, offer world-class tidal energy resource to which our turbine technology is ideally suited.”

Joe Fison, director of corporate development at Atlantis, confirms that the sublease signing is a major development for the company. Canada is the second most important market after the UK for Atlantis, which is also developing projects in China and India.

The developer has been active in the Canadian market since 2010 and in 2011 was awarded permission to register for a berth. Last year Atlantis secured CAD$5 million in funding from Sustainable Development Technology Canada, a Canadian government agency.

The funding package served as a trigger to proceed with the sublease contract, Fison says. Atlantis is now looking to open an office in Fundy next year, which will serve as a liaison point for local contractors including Lockheed Martin Canada and Irving Shipbuilding.

Longer term, the company’s plan is to create a 100MW-plus array at Fundy, subject to permits and environmental impact assessments.

The array will be built out in a phased fashion and the first turbine will be used initially to check the AR-1500 design’s suitability to conditions in the Bay of Fundy. The tidal stream there famously ripped an early 1MW OpenHydro machine apart within a matter of days in 2009. 

New markets

Fison says Atlantis, which has been awarded GBP£51m for the MeyGen project, is still on the lookout for potential developments in new markets, including France, Latin America, Asia and Australia.

A critical element in these rollout plans is the availability of government backing to help get early turbines in the water, Fison says. The funds secured in the UK and Canada have been a major factor in helping Atlantis move its projects forward.

Fison believes other countries will be watching the impact of the financing schemes and may choose to emulate them locally.

However, he points out, Atlantis is aware of the need to make sure that any funding is only required temporarily to allow tidal energy to achieve a scale at which it can compete effectively with other renewable energy sources.

In the UK, for example, Atlantis is expecting to match offshore wind in terms of cost by 2020, and to be able to beat it thereafter. It remains to be seen how Canada’s tidal market will measure up by then. Certainly, Fundy has been moving forward at high speed of late.

Recent months have seen increases in activity at the Parrsboro wharf in Fundy’s West Bay, and around the Black Rock area of the Minas Passage, relating to the power cables and the installation of a monitoring platform.

Sensor technology

Construction of the platform began in May as part of FORCE’s Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST) programme.

It involves collaboration between a number of local companies, including EMO Marine Technologies of Eastern Passage and the Musquodoboit Harbour suppliers Open Seas Instrumentation and Mackenzie Atlantic Tool and Die.

Also in May, FORCE announced the recruitment of two additional staff and two new volunteer board members.

Anne-Marie Belliveau, a professional engineer and certified project manager with background in managing large, multi-disciplinary environmental engineering projects, joined as director of operations, and Simon Melrose was named as the project manager for FAST.

The board, meanwhile, saw the addition of Janet MacMillan, a partner and lead strategic counsel at National Public Relations, and Paul Jamer, a marine engineer and vice president of corporate development for Aspin Kemp & Associates.

Foundations for success

With turbine technology, cabling and funding in place, the tidal energy sector can take centre stage in proving its potential in the heart of one of the world's most volatile and energy-inspired markets, The Bay of Fundy. And with the right balance of engineering talent at the helm, the ride to tidal power commercialisation will be a much smoother journey.