Tidal Energy Research: New Report Highlights Growing Knowledge, Road Ahead

Posted on May 30th, in Bay of Fundy, Tidal Energy.

Press Release – May 30, 2016

HALIFAX, NS – The Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) announces the release of a new report summarizing the tidal-energy related research undertaken in the Bay of Fundy since 2007. The report comes in advance of Nova Scotia’s first grid-connected tidal turbines, scheduled for deployment in 2016.

The Nova Scotia Tidal Research Summary Report, authored by Dr. Graham Daborn of Fundy Environmental & Educational Consultants, offers a high level assessment of the environmental studies and regulatory initiatives that have been conducted in the lead up to the first grid-connected technology demonstration.

Commissioned by the Province of Nova Scotia through the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA), the Summary Report focuses on important research activity and findings on the marine environment and highlights the significance of the results in light of current tidal turbine deployment plans, including:

  • Three Strategic Environmental Assessments between 2008-2014, combining science review and public engagement
  • The creation of a demonstration facility (the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy – FORCE)
  • Over $5M in tidal energy research supporting over 50 research studies
  • Ongoing improvements to research methods and approaches

“Nova Scotia has made significant efforts in understanding the environmental, scientific and technological challenges and opportunities of tidal energy” says Dr. Graham Daborn. “The province has invested considerable resources in developing an adaptive regulatory environment for tidal energy, and building a broad knowledge base about the potential and the environmental effects of tidal energy extraction.”

The report also underlines past, ongoing and future work necessary to ensure that any larger-scale development happens responsibly, including a collaborative strategic research plan to further examine:

  • Behavioural responses of fish, birds and mammals to turbines (and turbine noise), and the potential effects on their populations
  • Encounter and risk prediction models for fish, birds and mammals
  • Potential effects on fisheries, especially for lobster and schooling migratory species
  • Assessing the potential for acoustic deterrents
  • A data management system to share the large and varied data being collected by multiple parties
  • Improving the durability of both turbine technology and monitoring equipment in extreme high flows

Dr. Daborn, a marine biologist and past director of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research at Acadia University, explains: “The research accomplishments that have led us here are substantial and have resulted in the creation of innovative approaches to unique challenges – a story that needs to be told. The story continues, however, now that turbines are to be deployed in Nova Scotia waters for prolonged testing periods, because some of the remaining environmental questions can now be addressed.”

Stephen Dempsey, Executive Director of the OERA, adds: “The tidal energy sector has numerous opportunities for both clean energy and ocean sector economic activity. We’re committed to ensuring the industry moves forward in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way.  Over the past decade, the OERA has invested over $5M and funded more than 50 research projects in tidal energy alone.”

Complimenting Nova Scotia’s research efforts is a growing international research database on potential environmental effects summarized in the recently released: “Annex IV 2016 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewables Energy Development Around the World.

Established by the International Energy Agency Ocean Energy Systems (OES) in 2010, Annex IV is designed to examine the environmental effects of marine renewable energy development, drawing on expertise from thirteen OES nations, including Canada, to coordinate research that explores the environmental issues associated with this emerging industry.

“The path forward for the tidal energy industry involves retiring risks by addressing scientific uncertainty, identifying situations that require mitigation, and exploring new approaches and technologies that can be employed in these challenging environments” reports Andrea Copping, director of the US based Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, who led the 2016 report. “Nova Scotia’s contribution to research focused on tidal energy is a critical and complementary component of the broader research efforts aimed at resolving the uncertainties that remain for this industry”.

Both reports are available online: