The hulking $5-million barge being constructed at a Richmond shipyard may look like it’s built for battle but it’s actually built to generate power harvested from tidal energy.
“Tidal energy just takes advantage of the tidal ebb and flow,” Russ Baker of Water Well Turbine said. “As it ebbs and flows we capture that energy and turn it into electricity.”
Here’s how it works — inside the 27-metre barge is a slow-moving paddlewheel-type turbine, which rotates with the direction of the tide. It’s designed to generate up to one megawatt of electricity, enough for a small community of 500 homes.
Baker said the technology could be used by “remote communities that are up and down the coast.”
“Many of those places are not going to invest in huge gigawatt projects. They’re going to have smaller units. Right now they’re usually using diesel and we can replace a lot of that.”
Dent Island Lodge northeast of Campbell River is the first customer on board. Right now the lodge pays about 65 cents a kilowatt hour for diesel. Water Wall Turbine claims its power will be as cheap as 15 cents per kilowatt hour. Testing will begin next month.
As for the impact on marine life? Water Wall Turbine’s Marek Dredzki is confident there is nothing to worry about.
“Our device is a such a low-RPM, slow-moving device, it can’t harm anything going through it,” he said. “I’m prepared to swim myself through it to prove the point. ”
B.C. Hydro is keeping an eye on the project, but at this point it says tidal power is not suitable for a large-scale public utility.
– With files from Jordan Armstrong