Nova Scotia Harnesses the Power of the Sea

The maritime province has fired up a two-megawatt tidal power turbine in the Bay of Fundy

January 16, 2017

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Nova Scotia’s two-megawatt (MW) pilot tidal power plant has finally started sending power to the grid—a first in North America. “This is a proud and historic moment,” said the province’s energy minister, Michel Samson, as he flicked the switch to send electrons along an underwater cable in the Bay of Fundy.

The experimental, 300-ton, 10-blade, open-center turbine, described as “an underwater wind turbine” rests on the floor of the Atlantic Ocean, which forces 160 billion tons of water per day into the bay—more than all the world’s fresh water rivers combined.

At $30 million after the addition of a second turbine, each of which is able to power the equivalent of 500 homes, it isn’t cost-effective in its current form. But its proponents are banking on cost improvements as the technology becomes widespread.

The turbine’s creator is Cape Sharp Tidal, a joint venture between the Nova Scotia utility, Emera, and the Irish turbine company, OpenHydro, whose engineers calculate that a network of tidal turbines could generate 7,000 MW of Fundy power. Tidal power may become the latest addition to global electricity generation. In the U.K., projects on the planning board include a US$1.6 billion, six-mile wall along Swansea Bay to power 155,000 homes. This will be dwarfed by a 400 MW project in Scotland that is starting up, which will be the world’s largest tidal power plant.

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