Energy Only tests will reveal if power generation and fishing industry compatible, expert says
George Hagerman, senior research associate at Virginia Tech's Advanced Research Institute says not only does tidal power address the environmental issues of other methods of generating power but it is also more predictable.
"The advantage of any renewable resource compared to a fossil fuel resource is you're not subject to price volatility," he says.
Hagerman was brought in to Saint John by the Department of Energy to provide an overview of the tidal energy industry at an info session for Bay of Fundy Stakeholders, who were also given a forum to air concerns.
Because of the consistency of tidal power, energy companies can "schedule their other generation sources to match what they know will be coming out of the tidal power plants," Hagerman says. "They'll know for weeks in advance what the tidal power plant will put out."
Hagerman is waiting on studies to see how the cost of tidal power generation in New Brunswick would stack up against coal and fossil fuels.
"We know for example in Minus Passage (Nova Scotia), we've done a desktop study that suggests you can be competitive," he says.
But cost effectiveness isn't the only concern for tidal power in New Brunswick.
Maria Recchia, executive director of the Fundy North Fishermen's Association, which represents inshore fishermen from St. Martins to the Maine border, is worried about potential turbines scaring off the fish responsible for her members' livelihood.
"Herring are very sensitive to noise and lights and movement," she says.
Hagerman understands that concern.
"You don't know to what extent (the fish will be affected) until you can have a good model ... of what the disturbed (water) flow might look like," says Hagerman. "Those are studies that should be undertaken."
He says it may be a year or two before such study results could be ready.
Recchia wants the fishing community to be involved in the research from the beginning.
"I think we need to not just look at areas where you can make the most money with tidal power, but look at areas where ecologically it would be the most benign and economically as far as the other industries operating in the area," she said.
She is concerned a potential tidal power industry in the Bay of Fundy would simply be pushing out the fishing industry which she says is doing quite well there.
"We need to be able to find a way to allow those (industries) to functions and you can add on tidal power, as opposed to tidal power instead of."
Hagerman says all studies will be done on computers to simulate the effects of the disturbance instead of creating a real one. A turbine will eventually have to be put in the water and new information could be learnt from that process, but he is confident they'll have addressed most of the issues by that time.
"We'll be able to get a lot of good information from what's out there to physically validate what these models are predicting," says Hagerman, siting turbines in Nova Scotia and New York's East River.