With so much water flowing into and out of the bay, it is not surprising that in some areas, at spring tides, there are currents approaching 10 knots!

Being a province steeped in maritime history — from schooner and shipbuilding to lobster fishing and support of an offshore oil and gas industry – Nova Scotians built one of three tidal barrage power plants in the early 1980s.  In the last few years, they focused on being part of the world’s re-interest in tidal energy driven by approaches more like installing a wind turbine under water.

Creating new industry

Over the last two years, a strategy to work with the world leadership in tidal energy, and engage Canadians to work worldwide in building a tidal energy industry, has seen a market-driven approach kick-off Fundy Tidal Inc.’s five distributed generation community-scale projects.

"It may well take existing experience in the Atlantic to work out how to install, operate and maintain systems in this high-energy environment."

In late March world attention will be focused on the choice of two additional project developers to join with local Minas Energy and Singapore-based Atlantis Resources in four projects that will amount to the world’s first 20MW tidal power plant (enough for 20,000 homes). The FORCE development site, where these projects will come on line, has attracted international attention because it is the only centre that has been developed with the potential for as much as 64MW of powerplant capacity to connect to its offshore power cables.

The $150 to $200 million of activity these projects will undertake in the next few years is a huge entry point on the ground floor of a new industry being actively pursued by Canada, the UK (Scotland in particular) and France.  Many of the challenges to project planning, installation and operating a tidal power plant will be met in the Bay of Fundy for the first time. 

The Canadian companies that provide those solutions, and the Canadians who develop knowledge and skills, will be able to ride with the development of tidal generation worldwide.

Driving new business

It is no coincidence that shipbuilding companies like JD Irving are part of one of the consortia and marine operators like Atlantic Towing have already worked at FORCE and are part of another consortium.  It may well take existing experience in the Atlantic to work out how to install, operate and maintain systems in this high-energy environment.

They, and a host of smaller engineering, geophysical, oceanographic, instrumentation and environmental monitoring companies have identified this homegrown path to a world marketplace.

Nature offered a resource that may eventually allow Nova Scotia to match its existing electrical capacity with more than 2,000MW of tidal. But, the strategy of engaging with what may be the world’s largest pilot tidal powerplant creates a short-term business opportunity. Canada’s strengths in the hydroelectricity and offshore oil and gas support sectors can be a good fit with this opportunity.  Clearly the maritime industry already is.

The next decade can see tidal power driving new businesses and new business for older companies.  With these resources and the Canadian strategy, the opportunity is ours to lose!