N.S. opens door to new energy ventures among world’s highest tides in Fundy

HALIFAX — Nova Scotia has opened the door to small tidal technology ventures in the Bay of Fundy, giving them broad access to test their projects amid the world’s highest tides.

Energy Minister Geoff MacLellan announced legislative changes Thursday that will allow tidal energy developers to sell the electricity their turbines generate, and help bring it to market faster.

MacLellan said the step is needed in an industry where the technology is evolving rapidly, and will attract new ventures and foster further research in the Bay of Fundy.

“Today we are creating a new pathway to develop these turbines,” he said of amendments to the Marine Renewable-energy Act.

MacLellan said his department would allow five-year demonstration permits of up to five megawatts.

“(The changes) would give companies the ability to sell the electricity they generate at a lower price than the current developmental tidal feed-in tariffs. This will foster innovation by allowing industry to assess new lower cost devices without long-term commitments and without driving up power rates.”

No more than 10 megawatts of total power would be authorized, and MacLellan said operators would still be required to have all needed permits and environmental approvals.

The province approved a test project at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre near Parrsboro, N.S., in June of last year.

The Cape Sharp Tidal turbine, which can generate enough electricity to supply only 500 homes, is about five storeys tall and was anchored on the seabed at the mouth of a five-kilometre-wide channel near Parrsboro, where the crushing currents can travel at five metres per second.

A group of fishermen said it threatened a rich breeding ground for lobster, groundfish and scallops, but lost a legal challenge this past April in Nova Scotia Supreme Court.

MacLellan was asked Thursday whether opening up the bay to further widespread testing would be seen as a provocative move.

“We would hope that’s not the case,” he said. “There’s no consideration that we would haphazardly advance these permits and the ability for tidal players to go anywhere … and cause environmental damage.”

Elisa Obermann, executive director of the industry group Marine Renewables Canada, said allowing companies to patch into the grid is key.

“Being able to connect to the grid is a key part in maturing the technologies and ensuring that they are going to be efficient and effective,” said Obermann.

She said the Bay of Fundy is recognized as “the place” for tidal energy development in the world.

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