Tidal energy has been in the news lately, largely because of Nova Scotia’s efforts to get tidal power generating in the Bay of Fundy. Unlike solar, wind, and bioenergy, however, tidal is a bit of an unknown player in the renewable energy landscape. So what’s the deal?
How tidal energy works
According to Marine Renewables Canada, tidal power harnesses the kinetic energy of moving water in tides and converts it into electricity. It takes the form of either in-stream tidal, which captures moving water as it flows, or tidal height, which uses holding basins to capture tides as they rise, releasing them at low tide to create power. This can be accomplished through a number of technologies, described in this video:
Tidal energy in Nova Scotia
While some work is being done in other coastal provinces to investigate tidal power, currently Nova Scotia is leading the way:
The Annapolis Royal Generating Station located on the Annapolis River is the only tidal generating station in North America, and can generate up to 20MW, or 80-100 mWh/day. It has been open since 1984, and uses the barrage system (tidal height) to capture water from the Bay of Fundy in a head pond as it enters the river, later releasing it into a turbine when the tide falls.
FORCE – the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy – is a research centre located on the Bay of Fundy. This institution is at the forefront of developing in-stream tidal technology, meaning that they will not be damming or barraging the bay, but instead placing turbines under water to capture the tidal flow.
Nova Scotia is encouraging tidal energy development by creating both the Developmental Tidal Feed-in-Tariff Program and including small-scale in-stream tidal in the Community Feed-in-Tariff program. This allows both large and small-scale tidal projects and the involvement of local individuals.
The provincial government of Nova Scotia has also introduced legislation to ensure that tidal energy development happens in an environmentally and socially responsible manner.
We may see more tidal energy on the Bay of Fundy before the end of the year. Four companies have received approvals under the Developmental Tidal Feed-in Tariff for a total of 17.5 MW of installations. Tidal energy seems to make sense for the province, given its natural resources and potential for job creation – a recent report suggested that the tidal energy industry could create 22000 jobs and $815 million in labour income, all because of this clean energy resource.
Header image source: “Annapolis Royal Tidal Station, NS” by athoos is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0