Tidal power research centre receives federal backing

Christopher Gooding
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PARRSBORO - The Canadian government announced its support of tidal energy exploration here yesterday, committing $850,000 towards an interpretive and research centre dedicated to the fledgling in-stream power.

Scott Armstrong, Member of Parliament for the Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley, announced money is being made available through the federal government's Communities Adjustments Fund. When completed, the 3,500-square foot centre will cost more than $1 million and house an operations and visitors centre for research into tidal energy featuring labs, interpretive exhibits, a community room and several tidal-energy related components aimed towards educational tours.

The centre will be called FORCE - the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy. "The jobs, tourism and partnerships this creates raises our international profile," Armstrong said. "Matched with the Fundy Geological Museum, the Joggins Fossils Cliffs and Cape Chignecto Park, this centre becomes part of a much larger coastal experience."

Hantsport's Minas Basin Pulp and Power chief operating officer Scott Travers lauded the day's announcement, saying it gives new economic spinoffs here at home to the venture as it presents the community to the international stage.

"Once again we have the opportunity to combine our people with their knowledge of the sea," Travers said. "It's green; green energy. Energy close to the grid and [both] local and international markets."

Minas Basin Pulp and Power partnered with the UK's Marine Current Turbines and installed the first in-stream turbine just 10 km from Parrsboro in the Minas Basin in November. That test turbine is operational and collecting data and presented to the Copenhagen energy summit by Travers and Premier Darrell Dexter this December. The construction of FORCE adds an observational component that further marries the public and private partnership, Travers said.

With the incoming and outgoing tide, 14 billion tonnes of seawater flows through the Minas Passage and into the Minas Basin. California-based Electrical Power Research identified the Bay of Fundy as potentially the best site in North America for tidal generation. With an estimated 300 megawatt potential, it's enough power for about 100,000 homes.

Having the world come to the Fundy Coast to witness the science behind in-stream technology, Parrsboro mayor Lois Smith says, is an exciting prospect and will hopefully put any doubt aside that the project is moving forward.

"People at first were skeptical. They didn't think this could be happening in their backyard," Smith said. "People are still asking me 'Is this going to happen?'

"It's going to happen and we're really thrilled."

Ground will be broken within weeks and FORCE will become North America's first demonstration centre for the emerging in-stream technology. Supported by private and public funding, new developers and technologies are expected to join the partnership in the future.

Organizations: Communities Adjustments Fund, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, Fundy Geological Museum

Geographic location: California, PARRSBORO, Minas Passage Cumberland-Colchester-Musquodoboit Valley Cape Chignecto Park North America Copenhagen Bay of Fundy

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