Tide of change: developer wants to change how Digby County uses power

Fundy Tidal not only wants to change where the people of the Islands get their power from, they want to change how they use it.

The small-scale tidal energy developer held a public meeting in Freeport on Thursday, Nov. 14 to discuss its progress and plans for making tidal power a reality here in Digby County.

Dana Morin, the director of business development for the company and Greg Trowse, the chief technology officer, gave a PowerPoint presentation to two dozen people from Brier and Long Islands at the Islands Consolidated School and then opened the floor to the questions.

Fundy Tidal’s projects for Grand Passage, Petit Passage and Digby Gut have approval from the Nova Scotia Department of Energy under the small scale community feed-in tariff (COMFIT) program – this allows them to charge an elevated price for their power but they are limited in just how much power they can sell.

Their projects have to be connected into the local distribution system – the one that goes from house to house; they can’t connect into the transmission system and sell their power down the road somewhere.

More importantly, the power they produce cannot exceed the minimum annual requirement or base load of the community.

That is, Fundy Tidal is only allowed to produce power to meet the minimum amount of electricity the community needs.

Even with a different approval arrangement, the marine communities will have trouble moving all their power.

“Marine communities are located at the end of the line,” said Trowse. “They are adjacent to an abundant resource but unable to transmit power due to aging electrical infrastructure designed to deliver power.”

That is, the grid in Nova Scotia is set up to send power to Digby County from coal-fired plants in other parts of the province—not take away power from the Neck and Islands.

Trowse suggested three solutions: energy storage; smart grids and system controls; and changing local power use – also known as demand side management.

Fundy Tidal has just reached an agreement with Clean Current Systems of British Columbia to test a turbine in conjunction with energy storage – that could include large batteries, compressed air or even a centrifugal force system.

Trowse also talked about how we could increase local power production “by reshaping rural maritime community load”.

He provided a clear example of that on a small scale when Morin dimmed the lights to make it easier for people to see the slides.

“Turn the lights up,” joked Trowse. “The more power we use, the more we can produce.”

He suggested residents and businesses could install power storage systems to store power at off-peak times and take advantage of existing Nova Scotia Power programs to encourage the use of heat pumps and electric thermal storage, giving access to time-of-day rates.

Trowse also talked about ways for Digby County to use more tidal power and less fossil fuels – he suggested the next Grand Passage ferry could be a diesel electric with batteries charged with tidal power. He suggested the municipalities could look at running electric busses and any other municipal vehicles on electricity.

Trowse also talked about adding load (and thus increasing the amount of power Fundy Tidal can produce) by creating business to meet “sustainable community needs”.

For example he suggested greenhouses, breweries, ice plants, salt production and freshwater production.

Trowse said businesses may want to set up here to run on tidal power for marketing purposes.

There would be no cost advantage to setting up here – Fundy Tidal will sell their power to NSPi and NSPi will sell it to consumers – but Trowse said companies may want to  market their product as tidal power produced.

He even suggested ideas for beers produced with tidal power – since the brewery might fire up the boilers during off-peak spring tides, he suggested the name “Spring Tide Special Brews” with products like Howl at the Moon IPA or Lost in the Dark New Moon Stout.

Fundy Tidal Timeline

Greg Trowse, chief technology officer for Fundy Tidal provided this timeline at a public meeting in Freeport on Thursday, Nov. 14.

2010 – 2011

Feasibility assessment and COMFIT application

2012

Resource assessment

2013- 2014

Detailed site assessment; Site selection

2014-15

System design; Permitting; Baseline Environmental monitoring; Grid interconnections (Subsea cable, land-based power electronics)

2015

System testing; Commission of initial deployments; Environmental monitoring

2016

Full COMFIT commercial development

2016 – onward

Continued environmental monitoring; Operation and maintenance

Story by: Jonathon Riley

The Digby County Courier

November 18, 2013