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Advancements in environmental technologies for tidal energy development

Lead Proponent: Offshore Energy Research Association of Nova Scotia (OERA)
Location: Halifax, NS
EIP Contribution: $1 M
Project Total: $ 2.5 M
Strategic Area: Renewable Energy, Smart Grids, and Storage 

Project background

Researcher Richard Cheel is preparing to deploy the drifter instrumentation buoy overboard the vessel

Karsten Turbulence project. Researcher Richard Cheel is preparing to deploy the drifter instrumentation buoy overboard the vessel. The drifter is equipped with an ADCP that will record data for use in mapping turbulence. Grand Passage, NS.

Canada and, notably, Nova Scotia have been investing in tidal energy for more than a decade. Developing tidal power demands time, significant investment and technological innovation. Pursuing these will contribute to reducing uncertainties, investment risks and, most critically to reducing overall costs. Canada continues to make important contributions in tidal technology innovation, keeping us at the forefront of developing a reliable and predictable source of renewable energy.

This project supported research into innovative technologies and techniques to advance the tidal energy sector and was comprised of five unique research initiatives with focus areas in environmental monitoring, marine operations and cost reduction technologies. The project funding period ran from April 2017 to March 2019. However, actual project work extended into FY 2019-20, with all research completed by March 31st 2020. Between April 1 2019 and March 31 2020, project work was supported by in-kind contributions from the Province of Nova Scotia, the Government of Canada (CFI, Mitacs, and DFO), three Atlantic universities (Dalhousie, University of New Brunswick, and Acadia), and industry partners (Luna Ocean, FORCE, and (VEMCO). Project costs from April 2017 through to end of March 2020, amounted to $3.25 million. All research activities were conducted in Nova Scotia, with field work undertaken in high-flow channels in the Bay of Fundy. Research activities included computer modeling and simulations, controlled laboratory testing, technology deployment sea trials, data collection, data processing and analyses, and software development.

The respective research teams featured a diverse range of expertise and backgrounds including oceanography, engineering, physics, mathematics and biological sciences. The complement of talent was drawn from Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and British Columbia, and for some of the projects, experts were engaged from countries including Australia, the USA and Austria. Furthermore, over 25 Highly Qualified Personnel (HQPs)/students were actively engaged on the project. They collectively contributed to the delivery of successful results as well as expanded Canada’s capacity in tidal energy R&D.


Acadia University researcher Dr. Montana McLean surgically implanting a VEMCO High Residency (HR) acoustic tag in an Atlantic Salmon kelt

Stokesbury Fish tagging project. Acadia University researcher Dr. Montana McLean surgically implanting a VEMCO High Residency (HR) acoustic tag in an Atlantic Salmon kelt. Receivers deployed in the Bay of Fundy will provide information on species movement including survival and migration corridors near the tidal energy demonstration site in Minas Passage.

The project has made critical technological advancements that have facilitated the growth and development of tidal energy in Canada. Through simulations, testing and validation activities, new techniques, methodologies and software have been introduced with important implications to both government regulators and tidal developers. Furthermore, these advances open up new market opportunities in the global tidal energy supply chain.

The research results may be summarized as: acoustic technology solutions that improve understanding of fish and marine mammal detection and interaction near tidal turbines; cost effective seafloor spatial mapping techniques that improve site characterization; software advances that prolong the lifespan of cabling and mooring components to help reduce costs; and, progress toward enabling ROVs to successfully and safely operate in high flow environments.

Specific results include:

  • FORCE Fish Finders – Collected data sets have enabled follow-on research to automate complex and expensive post-processing of echosounder data, reducing the time required to report fish/turbine interactions to regulators from months to weeks.
  • Fish Tagging – Performance gains for the VEMCO High Residency (HR) fish tracking technology for use by the sector to better understand how migratory fish encounter and possibly avoid or interact with operating tidal devices.
  • Cabling/Moorings – Improved software and methods on how to measure fatigue, wear, and corrosion, in order to better predict marine turbulence impacts on cabling and moorings. The models developed will ensure adequate designs, leading to improved performance, long-term component life and overall cost savings.
  • Turbulence – New software that generates complete spatial maps of tidal channel flow characteristics. The flow maps, now available at much lower costs than ever before, can be used by tidal developers to optimize turbine design and array deployment that are critical to assessing project economic viability.
  • ROVs – Establishing baseline (thruster performance) capabilities of the Cougar XT and Falcon Seaeye ROVs as a critical first step toward ruggedizing and optimizing ROV performance to operate safely and efficiently in high-flow tidal energy sites.

Benefits to Canada

Technology advancements achieved through this project are important to the overall development of the tidal energy sector both here in Canada as well as globally. New software, techniques and methods tested and developed here have created opportunities for Canada to build its supply chain capacity to support the sector and reach new markets. The success of this research also contributes to building Canada’s brand as a world leader in tidal energy expertise and experience. The concentration of talent found here increasingly helps to attract interest and investment from around the world to test and demonstrate tidal power devices in Canadian waters. This project has invested in both tidal technology innovation and expertise that will collectively help Canada remain a leader in bringing this clean and reliable source of renewable energy to market.

Next steps

More research is necessary to further refine the environmental technologies, methodologies and approaches to facilitate full utility and use by the tidal sector. The scope of new research for the respective projects is wide-ranging, including activities such as additional sea trials, collection and processing of new data sets, algorithm refinements, validation testing and new computer modeling simulations. Continued research investment in tidal technologies’ development will keep that momentum going in building made-in-Canada technology solutions and know-how and move us closer to tidal energy commercialization over the next two decades.

Project Partners

Nova Scotia Department of Energy

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