Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Feeding the Gulls!

I came across this typical Bay of Fundy winter sight while walking the dog this morning. Food for shore birds is scarce this time of year so many people share stale crusts of bread with seagulls. If encouraged, gulls will appear out of nowhere to feast just outside our back doors but I, like most Bay folks, like the excuse to go to the beach to feed 'em.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Nice ice in the Bay of Fundy

The past few winters around the Bay of Fundy haven't been cold enough to produce ice cakes of any decent size. When I was a kid I remember some the size of a car. However, this year we've had enough of a cold snap to witness the formation of sheet ice in Fundy's many sheltered harbours. Here's a photo taken in the inner Parrsboro harbour this morning. The only thing missing is the eerie creaking and groaning of the ice as it shifts from the flow of tide beneath.

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Plein Air Painting on the Bay of Fundy

In my frequent travels around the Bay of Fundy over the past decade I've witnessed many photographers (professional & amateur) and painters 'in action' capturing images of our Bay.

I came across one such artist recently: plein air painter Nita Leger Casey. Nita lives in New England but has spent many summers painting the Bay of Fundy in the areas around Campobello Island in Passamaquoddy Bay.

Here's a sample of her work (used with permission). To see more, visit Nita's blog Gingerbread Art Studio.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Enviro impacts of in-stream tidal energy

I've been searching everywhere for comprehensive environmental impact assessments of in-stream tidal energy. I guess because there haven't been any major in-stream tidal energy projects, there also isn't much available in the way of research results.

The environmental and societal impacts of the old style tidal barrage (think: dam) have been well documented: significant damage to estuarine ecosystems including destruction of habitat for fish, bird and other organisms, disruptions to commerical & recreational navigation, as well as significant alterations to river currents & sediments.

It appears that these factors would not come into play where in-stream tidal energy is concerned. Why?
1. in-stream turbines are located individually underwater, therefore no dam blocking the flow of water,
2. small marine life can pass through the slow turning blades (larger creatures are diverted by screens on some turbines),
3. early simulation appears to indicate that in-stream turbines (because they are capturing only a portion of the energy of the current) will not cause silt build up or significant alterations to marine currents.
If this is the case then in-stream tidal energy would be the greenest of the alternate energy technologies!

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Joggins Fossil Centre design

Just received this great concept photo from the team involved in the development of the Joggins Fossil Cliffs project on Chignecto Bay in the upper Bay of Fundy.

The 13,000 sq ft centre will house a gift shop, lab, about 6,000 ft of exhibition space devoted to the significance of the cliffs and will greatly improve access to the fossil beachs.

Wonderful to see that the building's design incorporates local sandstone as well as a couple of innovative 'green' features: a vegetation roof and a wind tower to provide electricity.

The Centre, which will open later this year, is expected to attract about 40,000 visitors annually from all over the world. I can't wait to head down there to see the finished product!

For more info on the Joggins Fossil Cliffs see my December post about its UNESCO World Heritage bid or visit the project website for frequent updates.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Snow bug at the beach

Ooooooh, too cold to do my usual dog walk from town to the beach this morning (-21 C) so I heaved Belle in the back of my VW bug and drove over. Went for an awesome walk and I just had to capture these silvers & blues when we got back to the car. Another beautiful day on the Bay of Fundy!

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Save Passamaquoddy Bay from LNG

My final New Year's wish for the Bay of Fundy is in such stark contrast to the green tidal energy project I've been describing...it's bizarre!!

This wish involves controversial proposal to build a $700 million dollar liquefied natural gas plant at Maine's Mill Creek where the St. Croix River meets Passamaquoddy Bay just 20 kilometres south of the Canada-U.S border. At least one nearly 1000-foot-long LNG tanker is expected to pass through Head Harbour each week. Even before the plan has gone through environmental reviews on both sides of the border, our government says it will not allow LNG tankers through what it claims are Canadian waters. Yay Canada! but...

I've read that the United States says we will be violating international laws by refusing to allow liquefied natural gas tankers through Head Harbour. Canada says LNG tankers in Head Harbour are environmentally dangerous, potential threats and just plain not wanted!

I'm not alone in wanting to see this project cancelled - hence, it's magical position as New Year's wish #1.

Monday, January 15, 2007

OpenHydro's in-stream turbine pics

Sourced these photos of OpenHydro's style of turbine. The above-surface platform shown on the one photo is primarily for demonstration purposes (to raise & lower the turbine) and would not be in the final 'field' of turbines. They would be fully submerged (like the other photo).

OpenHydro's turbines resemble giant fans with the blades connected to a rotor which spins slowly inside the structure as water flows through. Electricity is generated as the rotor turns past a magnet generator on the outer rim of the structure.

The whole "fan" is anchored to the ocean floor, and no dam is required. The speed and volume of water passing through the area, depth and geology of the seabed and distance to a grid connection determine the cost and output of its turbines.

Irish company chosen for Fundy tidal pilot

Just in the news this weekend:

Nova Scotia Power has picked an Irish firm to provide its first in-stream tidal turbine for an experiment in the Bay of Fundy. OpenHydro of Dublin was selected for the project, which is scheduled to begin operations in 2009.

"By selecting OpenHydro, Nova Scotia Power has chosen a company that has been most successful in demonstrating their design in ever increasing sizes. They offer a simple and environmentally friendly unit, which we believe will allow our demonstration project to be successful. When completed, this will be the largest in-stream tidal generating unit integrated into an electricity grid in the world," said James Taylor, NSP’s general manager of environmental planning and monitoring.

Last fall, NSP submitted an application for funding for the tidal power demonstration project to Sustainable Development Technology Canada. The company is awaiting further notification on funding and an environmental assessment of the project.

Looks like a tidal energy project will be underway in the Bay of Fundy sooner rather than later!

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Take a look at a tidal energy in-stream turbine

Further to previous posts about tidal energy, here's an interesting artist's rendition of the type of turbine that could be used to create in-stream tidal energy in the Bay of Fundy. Look to me very much like the modern wind turbines, only submerged. (photo borrowed from Marine Current Turbines website (U.K.))

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Road under water at Ministers Island

After posting my "100 billion tonnes" high/low tide photo a few days ago, I received these photos & a note from Susan at the Ministers Island Historic Site in St Andrews, New Brunswick.

This is my favorite high/low tide spot on the Bay of Fundy. The road to our island is fully exposed for several hours at low tide (we escort visitors over, just to be safe!) but then at high tide it is 14 to 17 feet under water. At high tide we really are an island in the traditional sense of the word. For sure this is one spot on the Bay of Fundy that is worth seeing at high tide then again 6 hours, 13 minutes later at low tide. People are astounded by the change!!

I hope Susan doesn't mind that I put in a little dotted line on the low tide photo to show the sea floor road. I've been over many times - it is very cool!

Thursday, January 11, 2007

New year's wish #2 - Bay of Fundy whale wish

Further to my 2nd Bay of Fundy New Year's wish that none of our whales get injured or killed by shipping this year...

As evidenced by my previous posts, Fundy's whales are never far from my mind. Therefore, you can imagine how I felt when I heard on December 30th that a two-year old male Right whale had been discovered dead off othe coast of Georgia (winter feeding grounds). Struck by a ship.

This sad photo shows researchers from the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution of Massachusetts performed a autopsy on the whale.

2006 proved to be an exceptionally bad year for what might be the world’s most endangered large whale as six of these giant creatures that migrate up and down the East Coast were found dead. Five of the deaths were the direct result of human caused interactions including four deaths due to ship strikes and one from a fishing gear entanglement.

With less than 400 North Atlantic right whales on the planet, scientific studies have shown that the precarious population cannot withstand this level of human caused mortality. In addition to Canadian efforts, the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service in the U.S. has been in the process of proposed rulemaking to better protect right whales from both shipping and fishing impacts for several years.

This type of measure (though not perfect) was implemented successfully in 2004 in here in the Bay of Fundy, which is the principal late summer feeding ground for many right whales. A similar proposal is in the works to move the shipping lanes going into Boston, which has America’s only whale feeding marine sanctuary, just 25 miles east of its port.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

What's a 100 billion tonnes of water?

Unless you've actually seen the tides here on the Bay of Fundy, it's a bit tricky to get your head around exactly what 100 billion tonnes of seawater looks like filling and emptying the bay twice a day. Short of having an aerial timed video of the tide moving in & out over 6 hours, I guess photos are the still the best option. (I'm totally up for doing the aerial if anyone has a spare helicopter they'd like to donate to the cause). There are many pairs of high/low tide photos that help to show the volume of water in our bay. I'll track them down and post them as I find them. These two photos were at Five Islands Provincial Park near where I live.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A different type of tidal "energy"

Just had a note from the folks who operate Inn on the Cove & Spa in Saint John on the New Brunswick side of the Bay of Fundy witnessing another type of tidal energy...

Since the inn first opened some 15 years ago, a regular Scottish guest maintains the area is magical. He says the Druid lines of force intersect close to the property creating a powerful and magical strength. No matter what one might believe, it is clear that the tides have an enormous influence on us and our guests at the inn.

The pulse of the tides effect our total environment here. Every six hours and 20 minutes, more than 100 billion tonnes of water rush in or out of the bay with an energy that can be felt as well as seen.
The very geology and complete environment of our area is affected by this power.

Winter weather can produce 'dragon's breath' or clouds of 'sea smoke' roiling and boiling off the surface of the massive tidal panorama. During warm summer days, cold waters of the Bay of Fundy sometimes generate fog that swirls and spills like airborne rivers over headlands and islands to cloak the area in a cotton-like blanket of mystery. Nearby the rapidly flowing St. John River also is stopped and reversed at high tide as bay waters roar inland twice daily.

The mighty tides of the Bay of Fundy influence both beauty and wellness our inn & spa on the edge of this incredible body of water. Stones smoothed by the bay's tidal energy and marine nutrient based aesthetic products are used for a special Bay of Fundy massage therapy unique to Inn on the Cove. Such treatments were first used successfully by ancestral peoples and the benefits are now being recognized and repeated.

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Map of the Minas Passage

I just came across this great aerial map of the Minas Passage between Parrsboro and Cape Blomidon, the narrowest channel in the Bay of Fundy (approx. 4.5 to 6.5 km wide). It's not hard to imagine why this site was identified in a recent tidal energy study as having great tidal in-stream energy potential! (photo borrowed from the Maritime Tidal Energy website).

Friday, January 05, 2007

Further to Fundy Tidal Energy

I forgot to mention the potential of the Bay of Fundy's tidal energy resource. It is estimated that a single generator in the Minas Channel (between Parrsboro and Cape Blomidon) could generate 250 megawatts of power - that's about enough to power 200,000 homes.

I guess that makes sense when you consider that there is 100 billion tonnes of sea water moving in and out of the Bay of Fundy in a single tide cycle - more than the combined flow of all the freshwater rivers in the world!

There is already one small tidal energy project: the Annapolis Tidal Generating Station which has been operating on the Annapolis River since 1984. It uses Bay of Fundy tides to produce 20 megawatts of energy, or enough to power 4,000 homes.

The world's largest tidal power project, the La Rance station built in France in the 1960s, generates 240 megawatts.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Bay of Fundy wish #3 - Tidal Energy

I thought I'd explain my Bay of Fundy New Year's wishes in more detail.

#3 - Fundy Tidal Energy

In the 1970s there was a move to create a barrage-style tidal energy project in the upper Bay of Fundy. Fortunately communities and ecologists rallied against such a plan (which would have involved creating a huge dam across the bay!). Such projects proceeded in other parts of the world to somewhat disasterous effects - such as the Severn Estuary barrage in Wales. Last summer I hosted a ecology researcher from the Severn Estuary who told me first hand about the "legacy" of that tidal project.

Some 20 to 30 years later, the technology of tidal generators appears to have greatly improved. Now there are several wave power projects on the go (these are used in the open ocean) and other in-stream concepts (this is what would be suitable for the Bay of Fundy). One type of in-stream tidal generator is something the modern wind mill, but it located under water and not visible from shore. Another type is something like a sub-surface kite that switches direction when the tide turns. Both appear to be much less disruptive to the environment, the fishing industry and recreational use of the Bay of Fundy.

Our mayor in Parrsboro has just returned from a tidal power discovery mission to London, Glasgow and the Orkneys with various government departments. He has a great personal interest in tidal energy as well as being the mayor of the town that is likely to be the staging ground for a pilot project, so I guess that gives me a front row seat for all the action!

Monday, January 01, 2007

3 New Year's wishes for the Bay of Fundy

I'm not much of a resolution maker but as we move into the new year I realized that I do have three hopes for our beautiful bay in 2007:
1. that the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) proposal for Passamaquoddy Bay (a part of the Bay of Fundy on the New Brunswick side bordering Maine) be CANCELLED,
2. that NO Fundy whales are injured by ships this year,
3. that discussions continue toward the possibility of TIDAL energy (which would result in the Bay of Fundy being respected throughout the world as a source of GREEN energy)....I think more needs to be known about the environmental impacts of tidal power but the idea is intriquing to me at this point.