New Tidal power institute at Acadia a natural fit, says director9/12/2012
WOLFVILLE — The new Acadia Tidal Energy Institute is a perfect fit for Acadia University, says the institute’s director.
That’s because the university has a long history of studying how to harness the Bay of Fundy tides to produce tidal power, Anna Redden said prior to Tuesday’s official opening of the institute.
“I think this is a great opportunity for Acadia,” said the scientist whose association with tidal power began on the Wolfville campus 30 years ago.
“This is in our back yard. We’ve contributed significantly to the province’s pursuit of this opportunity and been involved in many different ways.”
Acadia’s association with tidal power dates back to 1915 when Acadia engineering professor Ralph Clarkson proposed harnessing energy from nearby Cape Split, a ragged outcrop of rock in the Bay of Fundy.
In the 1980s, Redden, then working on a masters degree, contributed to the baseline environmental studies for the tidal power generating station in Annapolis Royal, North America’s first tidal power plant.
The Wolfville university has since played a significant role in understanding the regional tidal energy environment and harnessing its potential. It is currently conducting research at several other sites, including the Minas and Digby Island passages.
In 2009, Acadia faculty spearheaded the formation of the Fundy Energy Research Network, a regional tidal energy forum fostering co-operation, collaboration and information sharing.
The establishment of the institute is a natural extension of this initiative, Redden said.
“In the past, Acadia’s involvement has largely been around ecological study around the Bay of Fundy environment,” she said. “We’ve made significant progress in the last five years in dealing with a number of the issues associated with tidal power.”
Over the past few years, other faculty on campus became involved in tidal power research, from a mathematician studying the physical currents and potential of tidal energy to faculty in non-science fields like finance and sustainable communities.
“We didn’t all fit under any particular centre, so we decided to form the institute as a multi-disciplinary cross-campus institute that addresses tidal energy issues,’’ said Redden, who also sits on the board of the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy and other tidal power committees and groups.
The top floor of Patterson Hall now houses the Centre for Rural Sustainability. Within that centre are the institute’s offices, which have a great view of the Minas Basin.
Work on tidal power in Nova Scotia may seem quiet now and taking a back seat to wind power and the Muskrat Falls hydro energy project in Newfoundland and Labrador, but much is still going on, Redden said.
“The reason it has been quiet is because we are waiting on the province to come out with a feed-in tariff, which will be significant. That’s supposed to happen this fall.”
She said an announcement is expected within days concerning some environmental research projects at the Minas Passage.
As in the past, the institute will continue to build successful partnerships for research, training and sustainable communities, with a range of organizations that include research centres, universities and colleges, industry, government, environmental non-government organizations and community groups.
“We see this as being a catalyst for a lot of the work that might be done in the future around tidal energy,” Redden said. “It is really exciting.”
The institute is funded through federal and provincial governments, business and private industry.
“Our government is pleased to support the innovative thinking that is taking place here at Acadia University,” Defence Minister Peter MacKay said in an Acadia news release.
“This project has the potential to reshape the future of our region’s energy sector, creating a cleaner, sustainable future for us all.”
“Tidal energy development is part of our Marine Renewable Energy Strategy,” said Education Minister Ramona Jennex, in whose Kings South riding Acadia is located.
“We see it as a key to clean, secure energy and also a way to help boost economic development and provide local expertise in supplying a global industry.”
(The Chronicle Herald)