Brier Island, Nova Scotia is one of the most forbidding and beautiful places on Earth. Located at the tip of Digby Neck, it is the dividing line between St. Mary’s Bay and the Bay of Fundy — site of the highest tides on Earth. 30 years ago, my wife and I were eating dinner on the deck of a restaurant overlooking Grand Passage, the narrow channel that separates Brier Island from Long Island, its neighbor to the East. It was a glorious summer day and as we ate our dinner, a whale went by, frolicking in the frothy Grand Passage waters.
The current through Grand Passage is ferocious. The water does not flow, it races at up to 6 miles per hour, pushing channel markers onto their sides and sounding like a runaway freight train as it cascades relentlessly between the two bays. As we watched, we couldn’t help but think how fantastic it would be if the power of that tidal flow could be harnessed. Now, after years of development, Sustainable Marine’s second generation tidal power platform, known as PLAT-I 6.40, is ready for sea trials and will be deployed in Grand Passage for further evaluation and testing.
The new platform can generate up to 420 kW of electricity from 4 marine turbines sourced from Schottel. That’s double the output of the first generation platform which was originally developed and tested in Scotland. The platform is tethered to the ocean floor via a turret that allows it to pivot as the tide changes like a boat on a mooring. Its turbines can be raised out of the water for easy maintenance and the platform only draws 7 feet of water until the turbines are lowered, making it easy to maneuver into place.
The central hull of the platform contains equipment to monitor the output of the turbines and condition the electricity being generated so it meets the requirements of the local grid. For more on how the platform works, see the video below.
“This ‘tidal technology is the result of a tremendous international effort combining world-class scientific and engineering expertise from our German, Scottish and Canadian teams, and is the culmination of a decade of research and development,” Jason Hayman, CEO of Sustainable Marine tells Renewable Energy Magazine. “We are very fortunate to have such strong support from our major shareholders, SCHOTTEL and Scottish Enterprise, the Government of Canada, and a wide range of partners and collaborators.
“The PLAT-I 6.40 has been designed specifically for the Pempa’q Project — where we will deliver the world’s first floating tidal array — in Nova Scotia, which has the best natural resources in the world to produce clean renewable tidal energy.” Pempa’q means “rising tide” in the language of the Mi’kmaq people who were the first to settle in the region.
When completed, the Pampa’q Project will provide up to nine megawatts of electricity to the Nova Scotia grid. This will reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 17,000 tons of carbon dioxide a year and power approximately 3000 homes in the province.
“The construction and launch of Sustainable Marine’s floating in-stream tidal technology is a significant milestone for Canada’s marine renewable energy sector. The project has engaged many local suppliers and offers a sustainable and clean solution for electricity production using a local resource. Projects and innovation like this are central to building Canada’s Blue Economy,” says Elisa Obermann, executive director of Marine Renewables Canada.
The project has received financial support from the Canadian government. The question now is whether tidal power can be cost competitive with other forms of renewable energy. India has recently backed away from tidal power projects because they have proven to be too expensive.
We tend to focus on wind and solar power when we talk about renewables but there are many other technologies designed to harness the virtually limitless power of the Earth from geothermal to tidal, to wave action generators. It will take all of them working together to make it possible for humans to transition away from burning fossil fuels as our primary source of energy.