When the first tide-driven turbines were placed in Minas Basin, the tides basically ripped them up within a few weeks. At the north end of the Bay of Fundy, tidal amplitude in the Basin reaches about 15 meters, and the sea moves in and out with the tide at up to 12 knots. These really are astonishing numbers, and you have to see them to believe them.
At the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, though, the tides are less, about 6 meters, or 20 feet, and run at only about 4-6 knots, still impressive if you happen to try to navigate the area in a small boat. And there, near Eastport and Lubec, the first commercial-scale tidal-power generator in the US is now being placed.
This one ought to work. The turbine is about 100 feet long, 15 feet high, with long curved foils. Ocean Renewable Power Company is in charge, and a lot of outside investment has made the event happen.
There are a few ways to bring something new, like a wind farm, or a fish farm, or in this case underwater turbines into a coastal community. The method makes all the difference. It can be done secretly and aggressively, without concern for buy-in from the local community, and most likely it will fail. If it fails, nobody in the community cares.
Or it can be done with the extensive involvement of the local community.
The Eastport community has certainly been involved in the tidal power initiative there. Fishermen have advised on the best sites for placement of the turbines. Local conservationists have been consulted. Where possible, local contractors have been employed. Community officials have been included in making decisions. Restaurants and B&Bs have remained open beyond the usual three month tourist season.
The turbines at Eastport will start to generate power in October. Not much at first, but it’s a start. Over the next few years, more turbines will be added. In time, they should serve the needs of most of the town.
What works for Eastport should work for the many other coastal communities along the Bay of Fundy, and elsewhere around the world where tidal currents run fast enough.
This is not large-scale power generation. But it is community-based, and the community appears to be strongly supportive. It should succeed.
Where coastal communities are involved in all aspects of an initiative, whether it is a fish farm, wind farm, coastal fishery, or tidal-power generation, conflicts are reduced, and success is more likely.
Consultation, inclusion, integrity and transparency are all essential components.
Interesting, isn’t it, that we seem to have learn this lesson over and over again?