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Opinion: Tidal-Power Development Is Already A Breakthrough

Over the summer, two turbines will be deployed off the shores of Parrsboro in the Bay of Fundy, where tidal changes are recorded as the highest in the world. The project demonstrates Nova Scotia’s commitment to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and provide a significant contribution to cutting GHG emissions and meeting Canada’s climate-change targets.

Commissioned by the province, the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) has spurred more than 50 research projects, worth more than $5 million, to study Nova Scotia’s tidal energy opportunity and the potential impact on the Bay of Fundy. Researchers from Acadia, Saint Mary’s, Cape Breton, St. Francis Xavier and Dalhousie universities, the Nova Scotia Community College, as well as local and national research organizations, have been collaborating with colleagues from around the globe to evaluate environmental impacts and economic opportunities of this nascent sector.

Other research initiatives and extensive public consultations with First Nations, local fishermen and communities around the Bay of Fundy have been undertaken. These have helped address concerns, communicate research findings and set the stage for the upcoming Cape Sharp Tidal in-stream tidal turbine deployments at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) tidal test centre.

Nova Scotia benefits from a strong academic community, aggressive renewable energy targets and a well developed oceans technology cluster that has local talent and global reach. The real prize for the province is to get in at the beginning of the tidal energy sector, valued in excess of a trillion dollars within the next 20 years.

It is not only Fundy tidal projects that are of interest to Nova Scotians. Tidal projects around the world are opportunities for our companies, universities and workers to pursue.

A recent independent study suggests the potential for Nova Scotia is the creation of 22,000 full-time jobs, $1.7 billion in GDP and a significant reduction in GHG emissions.

In 2015, one technology company announced $33 million in local contracts and more than 250 people working full-time to construct their turbine.

For Nova Scotia to realize this opportunity, its companies, workforce and researchers must be able to compete with other countries, in particular with France and the United Kingdom, which have targeted ocean energy as a key part of renewable energy and economic development.

The United Kingdom has leased more 1,800 megawatts over 40 sites. FORCE has only 22 megawatts permitted at one site.

This competition requires significant continued funding from the provincial and federal governments, along with investment from the tidal energy companies. In the near term, local support for deploying more tidal devices will require more local research to understand the environmental impacts, develop tidal sector cost-reduction technologies and leverage our research community’s skills for the benefit of the entire industry.

The Bay of Fundy has the potential to deliver more electric power than Nova Scotia currently uses. To make this a reality, OERA and its partners are committed to continued responsible research and testing.

Tidal energy in Nova Scotia represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build a globally competitive, clean-energy sector that has the potential to power our homes, create new businesses, and employ our children.

That represents a real breakthrough.