Guest blog post by: Ron Scott, a Founder, former President, and current Director of Maritime Tidal Energy Corp (MTEC) in Halifax.
The tide is coming in. Tidal energy is becoming a reality. We are seeing the early stages of a viable tidal energy industry emerging.
Some underlying forces are at work. It is increasingly difficult and expensive to use fossil fuels to generate electricity. Electricity costs therefore continue to rise. There is no end in sight.
Coincidentally, the cost of generating electricity from the wind, sun, and ocean continues to fall. Their use, as a result, is growing rapidly. Their growth is further assured because they produce no greenhouse gases and their supply is inexhaustible.
Technology to generate electricity from tidal flows - one way to harness ocean energy - is new. The technology is similar to wind turbine technology. Wind turbines capture wind flows. Underwater tidal turbines capture the very predictable tidal flows.
The worldwide story of tidal energy development is all about the UK and Canada. They, above all other countries, are emerging as world leaders in exploring the potential for harnessing the energy from tidal currents.
The UK has done, and is doing, extensive tidal research which has lead to plans to install 1 GW of tidal power capacity in the UK by 2020. In 2010, Scotland began by leasing undersea real estate to six large consortiums in exchange for the development of a 600 MW tidal capacity by 2020. Will this generate economic activity? Indeed. The capital cost alone is expected to be in the $2 billion range. Will it be competitive? Yes. The UK Marine Renewable Energy - State of the Industry Report (2009), estimates tidal energy could become competitive with current base costs of electricity by the time 2.8 GW have been installed.
Canada is following in Scotland’s footsteps. Several proof-of-concept demonstrations have been undertaken here in Nova Scotia and in British Columbia, and several more are planned.
Bay of Fundy Presents Powerful Opportunity
Canada’s Ocean Renewable Energy Group, an industry organization, has said that Nova Scotia alone could reasonably expect to build a tidal energy capacity of 100 MW by 2020. The economic tidal energy capacity for the Bay of Fundy – with 100 billion tonnes of seawater flowing in and out everyday - has been estimated to be between 350 MW and 8 GW, with a central estimate in the 1 – 2 GW range (approximately 5 – 8% of the known worldwide tidal stream resource).
Research from US-based Electric Power Research Institute identifies the Bay of Fundy as perhaps the most potent site for tidal power generation in North America. When fully developed, new in-stream tidal technology from only two locations in the Bay of Fundy has the potential to generate enough green, emission free energy to power close to 100,000 homes.
The Nova Scotia Government continues to prepare for this kind of development activity. In 2010 Nova Scotia authorized feed-in tariffs (incentives) for developmental tidal arrays that reflect the cost of the turbines and their deployment. Nova Scotia is currently developing strategies for regulating and commercializing marine renewable energy. Large investments in tidal energy support industries and services are sure to follow.
The pieces are falling in place. Denmark’s wind, and Germany’s solar successes are showing us the way.
Every day the equivalent of the outflow of every river in the world passes in and out of the Bay of Fundy.