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Tidal power project lays the foundation for a new clean energy industry in British Columbia

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by Richard Gilbert

The $6.5 million Canoe Pass Tidal Commercialization Project involves the construction of a pile-supported structure and the installation of two 250 kilowatt (kW) vertical-axis marine current turbines, on Vancouver Island, near Campbell River, B.C.
Tidal power project lays the foundation for a new clean energy industry in British Columbia

Chance to prove viability on commercial scale

The first proposed commercial tidal energy project in Canada is helping develop the federal environmental assessment process and lay the foundation for a new clean energy industry.

“The industry is in a very vulnerable state,” said Chris Knight, president of Canoe Pass Tidal Energy Corporation. We need to get some devices in the water and prove the viability of the technology on a commercial scale.”

The $6.5 million Canoe Pass Tidal Commercialization Project involves the construction of a pile-supported structure and the installation of two 250 kilowatt (kW) vertical-axis marine current turbines, on Vancouver Island, near Campbell River, B.C.

“The interesting thing about this project review is that it falls under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act,” said Knight.

“The provincial government has an environmental assessment act, which is the same in many respects. But, the provincial act has a series of set timelines.

“Once the proposal is submitted, the province has 180 days to respond. At the federal level, there are no such deadlines, so it’s a little less predictable.”

Knight is currently working with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Environment Canada, Natural Resources Canada, and the British Columbia Integrated Land Management Bureau to co-ordinate the necessary environmental assessment and review.

He expects to receive an environmental report from the federal government in the near future.

Once he gets a response, he will consult with the federal government to meet any further requirements and then obtain the necessary construction permits.

“Since this is the first project to go through an environmental review, we are setting up a system of monitoring to ensure what we have concluded in terms of the interaction with the marine environment and creatures is as benign as we think,” he said.

The approval process being undertaken for this project will help to determine the permitting process for tidal energy projects within Canada.

The project also involves the re-establishment of natural tidal flow through the narrow channel between Quadra and Maud Islands channel, by removing fill from an existing man-made causeway constructed in the 1940s.

“We don’t have to fight the current, which is a huge advantage for construction on this site,” said Knight.

“We will learn a lot about how to put this infrastructure in place — that will be used at the next site that doesn’t have this advantage.”

For the Canoe Pass project, the existence of the causeway allows for still-water construction of the tidal power plant.

This process will begin with the construction of a barge ramp that will provide access for construction equipment, prefabricated structures and the power generating equipment.

A dock for boat access will also be built.

There is currently no road access to the site, so access for construction workers will be by water.

A 100-ton crane/drill rig, piles, temporary bridge sections, and other materials will be loaded on to a barge in Campbell River and transported to the site.

The land portion of the site will be prepared to allow for the movement of equipment, construction of facilities, and manoeuvring of structural elements and power generation equipment.

The boat dock will be a fixed pier with wood decking on steel support beams, supported by piles.

The articulated ramp and floating platform dock will be anchored by mooring lines to the sea floor.

Construction of the turbine support structure will require nine permanent piles to support the turbine ducts and ten permanent piles to support the low-head barrage and pedestrian walkway.

The low-head barrage directs the tidal current through the turbine ducts.

In addition, 18 temporary piles will be required during construction to support a bridge, from which the permanent piles will be drilled and the precast concrete barrage panels installed.

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