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The Pull of Tidal Research

Finding viable and effective alternative energy sources has become a priority for governments, corporations and investors globally. With the Bay of Fundy boasting the highest and strongest tides on earth, this area acts as a living lab for the potential of tidal energy and the eyes of the world are watching the outcomes with great interest. The theory being that if it works here, under what are indisputably the harshest of conditions, it can work anywhere.

Considering Wolfville’s location nestled on the southern shore of Minas Basin and home to the Bay of Fundy’s infamous tides, it’s no surprise that Acadia University is a world leader in environmental monitoring of tidal energy. With 100 years of multi-disciplinary research into the environmental impact of tidal energy projects on wildlife, landscape, wetlands and other waterways, Acadia has earned a respected reputation across Canada and around the globe.

As international demand for the specialized knowledge of Acadia researchers grows, the Office of Industry and Community Engagement (ICE), is helping to develop partnership opportunities that enable researchers to share and expand their expertise to the benefit of industry and community alike.

As the only research facility of its kind in Canada, the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research (ACER) celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2010. Led by Dr. Anna Redden, ACER is focused on the estuaries and ecosystems of the Bay of Fundy as well as the adjacent Gulf of Maine and Georges Bank.

Of special interest to ACER and its network of researchers and community stakeholders are the biological and ecological ramifications of Bay of Fundy tidal power projects. ACER’s expansive project portfolio includes partnerships with industry members and community groups, resulting in recommendations on resource management and environmental stewardship of tidal energy projects.

Recently, ACER and its research/industry partners received two research grants from the Offshore Energy Environmental Research (OEER) and the Offshore Energy Technical Research (OETR) associations to carry out assessments of the amount of tidal energy that can be harnessed, the movement and behavior of various fish species near the tidal turbine demonstration facility and the determination of the risk of ice and other forms of debris to interfere with tidal turbines. Acadia researchers are also running test simulations and modeling tidal energy resources on high-end clusters of computers at Acadia and have been invited to lend their expertise to a number of other OEER/OETR-funded tidal power studies.

As a member of Springboard Atlantic, ICE believes strongly in the commercial value of tidal research. ICE director, Leigh Huestis and Research and Innovation Coordinator, Peggy Crawford work closely with ACER to help prepare funding proposals for research/industry/government partnerships, manage relationships, negotiate agreements and source new partners. They have played a key role in facilitating research projects with leading industry partners like environmental engineering firm Jacques Whitford, Nova Scotia Power, Minas Basin Pulp and Paper, Fundy Tidal Inc. and the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE). 

“Energy, infrastructure, tourism, agriculture, aquaculture and fishing are all sectors affected by the behaviour of the Bay of Fundy, both naturally occurring and man-made,” says Huestis.  “It is essential to the economic and environmental sustainability of the area that research is conducted and then shared to help industry, government and community make informed decisions on development. At ICE, we’re focused on helping to facilitate that exchange while advancing Acadia’s position as leaders internationally.”