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The Minas Passage – The ‘Everest’ of the Tidal Energy World

Canada’s Minas Passage - in the legendary Bay of Fundy - is home to one of the world’s greatest and most dramatic tidal ranges. The site is officially listed in the Guinness Book of Records, and lays claim to a series of stunning statistics.

Here the mighty tides move at walking pace. A seismic aquatic shift sees more than 100 billion tons of water filling and emptying the Bay of Fundy twice daily. It’s a mind-boggling volume equating to more than forty million Olympic-sized swimming pools.

The subsequent water force generated at the Minas Passage is equal to 8000 locomotives or 25 million horses. So extreme is this natural phenomenon, that the surrounding land is known to dip under the load.

The Minas Passage inlet lies 10 kilometres west of Parrsboro, Nova Scotia, in the eastern corner of the Bay of Fundy. Spanning 5km in width, it marks the entrance to broader Minas Basin.

The Minas Basin itself is an estuary, which forms at the mouth of the Cornwallis River, from where it ultimately empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Similar to many estuaries around the world, the Minas Basin is covered by thick layers of bay mud.

However, its tides are anything but ordinary rising and falling as much as 14 -16 meters. The horizontal range is equally significant covering approximately 5 kilometres, exposing large areas of the ocean floor.

During a flood tide, more than four times the combined flow of all the world’s freshwater rivers enter the Bay of Fundy, within the same 6-hour interval.

Currents in Minas Passage can exceed 20 kilometers per hour. Such is the power of the water it temporarily reverses the flow of several rivers that empty into the bay.

Adding to the scene, Fundy’s Old Sow Whirlpool, at 75 metres wide, is also the largest whirlpool in the Western Hemisphere, and the second largest in the world.

Due to its extra-ordinary geology, including its semi-enclosed, basin-like form, the Minas Passage offers an ideal setting to harness tidal energy. This combined with world-class local infrastructure, including Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), were key factors in Sustainable Marine’s selection for its flagship Pempa’q Project – delivering the world’s first floating tidal array.

Research from the Electrical Power Research Institute (EPRI) has identified the Bay of Fundy as one North America’s leading sites for potential tidal power generation, not least because of its close proximity to an existing electricity grid.

Further research by Dr Richard Karsten at Acadia University specifically identified more than 7,000 megawatts of potential in the Minas Passage, roughly equal to the power needs of 2 million homes – or all of Atlantic Canada.

Models indicate upwards of 50,000 megawatts of energy exist in the entire Bay of Fundy.

The Guinness Book of World Records states the world’s highest average tides are in the Bay of Fundy, where the mean spring range in the Minas Basin is 14.5 metres (47.6 feet). The highest tide on record in the Bay was 21.6 metres (70.9 feet) in 1869.

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