Comparing Tidal Power in B.C. and Nova Scotia

Image Source: Tidal Energy Today

Coal in B.C.

By the Numbers

12 billion tonnes

Of proven coal reserves in British Columbia

26 million tonnes

Of coal produced in British Columbia annually


Applications for new mines in 2011


Drop in price of coal since 2011


Mines closed in 2014-15

54.1 Million Tonnes

Of carbon dioxide released by burning annual B.C.'s coal exports.

Last Updated: February 2017

Andrew Farris

Two Canadian provinces possess the ideal geography for tidal power, making them the envy of tidal power developers around the world. On the Atlantic coast is Nova Scotia’s famous Bay of Fundy which boasts a tidal range of 15 metres, the highest in the world. British Columbia’s long and jagged Pacific coastline, punctuated as it is by dozens of narrow fjords, channels and peninsulas, is hardly less auspicious for tidal development. It’s no surprise then that Canada has been one of the world’s leaders in tidal development. Nova Scotia’s Annapolis tidal barrage built in the 1980s remains the third largest such barrage in the world the only one in North America. The Race Rocks tidal power pilot project, launched in 2006 just off southern Vancouver Island, was one of the world’s first tidal stream technology projects.

Yet since around 2008 the paths of the two provinces have diverged. In just the eight years tidal stream technologies have developed rapidly, and the whole tidal power industry is starting to look a lot like wind and solar power did 20 years ago: Once oft-derided cottage industries that are now worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Nova Scotia is gambling it can become the world’s leader in tidal power. They are well on their way to doing so. There are now active research programs at a number of Nova Scotia universities, a world-leading government-sponsored testing centre, and generous incentives to promote tidal power generation. As of this writing five foreign companies have set up shop in the province to test out their own designs while a variety of local developers are springing up too, buoying the hard-pressed Maritime economy. Tidal power is also an attractive avenue for the province to move away from its heavy dependence on coal power.

On the other hand British Columbia has not followed up its early success with tidal stream technology. The Race Rocks turbine was removed and dismantled in 2011 and no new tidal projects have been built since. While two tidal power companies with novel and exciting designs exist in the province, they have been struggling to make headway in a difficult business and regulatory climate. A heavy focus on hydroelectric power development and a massive LNG industry has sapped the provincial government’s interest in supporting this nascent industry. While B.C. does not need tidal power to displace coal power like Nova Scotia, projected future energy demand means B.C. will need to look beyond large hydroelectric dams to meet its needs.

The race to make tidal power work is on, and it is a global race. Governments all over the world look to Denmark and see how that country’s early research and investment in wind turbine technology has now turned that tiny country into the world’s wind energy superpower. They know that humanity’s urgent need to transition from fossil fuels to carbon-free energy resources will ensure an essentially unlimited demand for tidal power if it can be made economical. Now that the technology appears to be approaching a tipping point they are determined not to miss the next green breakout industry. Whoever wins the race will reap potential benefits of tens of thousands of high-tech science, engineering and manufacturing jobs, and the billions of dollars of revenues that come with them.

In this article we will examine the different approaches to tidal power on Canada’s two coasts and the reasons behind them. This is an extremely fast-moving field, and if B.C. does not want to miss the boat on this new energy industry it will need to move quickly to regain its former position at the cutting edge of global tidal power.

Nova Scotia's Tidal Power Bet

The third largest tidal barrage plant currently operating in the world, and the only one in North America, is Nova Scotia’s Annapolis Royal tidal power plant. Built in 1984 as a pilot project to test the effects tidal barrages, it has a peak generating capacity of 20 MW and an annual yield of 30 GWh. Compared to France's La Rance power plant, which has a capacity of 240 MW, the Annapolis plant seems small—especially as it's located in the world's most attractive tidal waters. While a small start, it now appears a forebear of greater things to come. The Bay of Fundy’s could one day host 8,000 MW of installed capacity.

It isn't surprising, then, that numerous new projects are under development to tap more power from the Bay. Tidal barrage technology has been left behind for economic and environmental reasons, and all these new projects are tidal stream projects—think underwater wind turbines—whose development has moved forward in leaps and bounds in only the last five years.

The groundwork was laid in 2008 when the Nova Scotia government established the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), a tidal power testing centre in Parrsboro. FORCE provided ideal tidal stream conditions and the electrical infrastructure to connect 65 MW of tidal power to the grid. Combined with a generous 53 cent per kWH Feed-In Tariff, which guaranteed a price for power produced by the tidal turbines, this put Nova Scotia on the map as a tidal power friendly business environment.

Now tidal developers all over the world are eyeing the Bay of Fundy’s uniquely well-suited tidal conditions and moving to test out their latest turbine designs there. In autumn 2015 Ireland’s DP Energy inked a deal with the province to test out three of their 1.5 MW turbines, making it the fifth company to do so. In 2015 Emera (a utility), in partnership with Ireland’s OpenHydro, deployed the first of two 2 MW tidal turbines at the Cape Sharp Tidal project. OpenHydro plans to begin manufacturing tidal turbines in Nova Scotia by the mid-2020s, projecting 1,000 jobs for the area. The plan is to expand Cape Sharp to 50 MW of capacity and start taking export orders.

Other projects at FORCE include Singapore-based Atlantis’s plans to demonstrate the cutting-edge AR1500 turbine, one of the largest turbines yet built, in conjunction with Lockheed Martin and Irving Shipbuilding. A consortium including Halifax’s Minas Energy, Germany’s Siemens, and Netherland’s Bluewater will soon be deploying a floating 2 MW turbine.

Universities in Nova Scotia have also jumped into the tidal field: Acadia, Cape Breton, College of the North Atlantic, Dalhousie and Saint Mary’s University all have research teams dedicated to advancing tidal technology. The students working on these projects are graduating and starting companies like Black Rock Tidal Power, which is developing new systems integration to bring down the costs of tidal power. All these developments have made it so that Nova Scotia is rivalled only by Scotland as a global centre for tidal stream expertise and investment.

The province is placing high hopes on development of an indigenous tidal power industry and has set the ambitious goal of 300 MW of tidal generating capacity by 2020. Denmark has shown it can be done. In the 1970s the government of that small Scandinavian country began supporting university departments and small companies that were developing the first modern wind turbines, solving the early technical problems, bringing down costs and improving efficiency. Those early investments have transformed Denmark. 28,000 Danes are directly employed in the wind industry today and the country is now home to global wind giants like Vestas and Siemens Wind Power, contributing some $16 billion to the economy. Their early lead gave them a unique expertise in manufacturing many complex components required for wind turbines, so that 40% of all the wind turbines in the world have at least some Danish-made components in them. If tidal power takes off then Nova Scotia (or British Columbia for that matter) could recreate this success. The main difference is that the up-front costs of tidal stream turbines are much higher than with wind turbines or solar panels, and so robust support from government and business will be even more important. The benefits for Nova Scotia could be huge: A 2015 study by the Offshore Energy Research Association estimated the tidal energy industry could yield 22,000 full time jobs over the next 25 years and contribute $1.7 billion to Nova Scotia’s GDP. If tidal power is reaching a tipping point Canada’s Maritime Playground is well placed to get in on the ground floor.

The Offshore Energy Research Association also examined New Brunswick, which also has access to the same excellent tidal conditions as Nova Scotia. However they have not implemented Feed-In-Tariffs or worked to encourage tidal power investment, and as a result has not seen any investment from tidal power developers.

How B.C. Lost its Lead

Back on Canada’s West Coast a dedicated core of innovators have been pioneering new tidal technologies for the last decade. British Columbia is ideally suited for tidal power because of its many fjords and narrow channels that create the fast-flowing currents suitable for tidal stream turbines. One early study estimated 192 possible sites for tidal power development in the province. When interest in tidal stream technologies first ignited around 15 years ago British Columbia vaulted to an early lead when Victoria’s Lester B. Pearson College partnered with Vancouver’s Clean Current Technologies to deploy a 65 kW tidal turbine at the Race Rocks Environmental Reserve on an island just south of Victoria, sinking the turbine to the seafloor in 2006 and successfully using it to generate power. The turbine represented several firsts, including the first operating tidal turbine in Canada and the world’s first successful ducted turbine. The turbine operated for five years, giving Clean Current’s researchers the opportunity to fine-tune the design and assess its environmental impact, which was found to be negligible.

Then in 2011 the project was ended and the turbine was removed. Clean Current received no further interest in deploying its designs in British Columbia. In 2015 the company folded. They left behind a legacy that included 64 patents and important contributions to improved durability of turbines in hostile marine environments. The turbine itself is now on permanent display at the Canadian Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa.

Clean Current was not the only tidal power company in British Columbia. The previous version of this article for EnergyBC was written in 2012 and mentioned the only other tidal power project planned for the province at the time, a small scheme for two 250 kW tidal generators at Canoe Pass near Campbell River. At that time it appeared as if the project would be going ahead in 2012.

The Canoe Pass project would mean cutting channels through a narrow causeway connecting Quadra and Maude Islands and putting over them two vertical-axis turbines designed by Calgary’s New Energy Corporation. The vertical-axis design goes against the general trend in tidal turbine design by spinning horizontally and this affords greater levels of efficiency (30-40% instead of 20-30%) and allows the shaft to sit above the water making servicing much cheaper. The project has been massively delayed and at the time of this writing five years later it still has not been built, though it may occur in 2016.

Outside of the stalled Canoe Pass Project there is only one other player in British Columbia’s nascent tidal power industry Yet that other team, the Water Wall Turbine Company working out of West Vancouver, have developed a simple yet highly unorthodox design that has the potential to revolutionize the tidal power industry.

The Water Wall Turbine (WWT) is an odd-looking barge-like float that encases a paddlewheel. The paddlewheel turns with the tidal currents. The 25-metre long WWT would be anchored in areas of high tidal currents and generate power with its bi-directional paddlewheel turbine whichever way the current was flowing. The design is thought to have practically no impact upon local ecosystems while the fact that it is floating obviates many of the stresses exerted upon tidal stream turbines 20-30 metres underwater. This removes the need for expensive, durable materials and makes maintenance much easier, driving down costs enormously. The main challenge will be to see if it can withstand the rigours of surface weather.

Thanks in part to a $2.25 million grant from the federal-level Natural Resources Canada, construction of the first 500 kW Walter Wall Turbine was completed in early 2016 and it is set to be deployed just off Dent Island north of Campbell River to power a nearby fishing lodge. It will replace the diesel generators the lodge had been relying upon for power. WWT vice-president Russell Baker estimates that power generated for the lodge would cost as little as $0.15 to $0.20 per kilowatt hour compared to the $0.65 kwh they were paying for diesel. If these costs are borne out it would be a game-changing development for the tidal power field, making it cost competitive in many jurisdictions, not just remote areas. The average New Yorker pays more for power than the fishing lodge at Dent Island may soon pay after the WWT is installed. This is before more research and economies of scale have wrung further economic efficiencies from the design.

The WWT barge can theoretically be scaled up to 10 MW, enough to power a small town, and the company intends to market them to remote and indigenous communities, a replacement for diesel generators and other carbon-based fuel sources. To ensure they can provide round-the-clock power they will come with Tesla batteries to store power when power demand is low and the tidal currents are fast, making up for those times when demand is high and currents are slow.

Water Wall Turbines and New Energy Corp. are confident in their designs and set forth a plan for a B.C. tidal power industry in a submission to the B.C. government’s 2015 public engagement over the Climate Leadership Plan. They advocated turning Canoe Pass into a tidal power incubation centre, a mini-FORCE. If they were able to build 10 MW of tidal power capacity in B.C. this would bring prices down enough to compete with the rates B.C. Hydro pays other Independent Power Producers. The first 10 MW of capacity would further the province’s climate goals by replacing diesel generators. At that point, having developed the know-how to manufacture the turbines more cheaply, they could sell them around the world. WWT set out a manufacturing schedule of reaching 1 MW worth of turbines in 2016, 10 MW in 2017 and then up to 103 MW by 2020. All the design, engineering and manufacturing would be done in Vancouver, Campbell River and Calgary, creating a projected 65 jobs and $50 million worth of economic activity for the first 10 MW alone. Achieving this would require B.C. Hydro to give these tidal projects a modest Feed-In Tariff of 35 cents per kWh for the first 3 MW of power, which would then drop to 25 cents, and then again to 18 cents after 7 MW. For comparison Nova Scotia’s Feed-In Tariff is 53 cents per kWh. The total government investment required would be $2.7 million the first year and declining thereafter. For perspective Site C Dam is currently projected to cost over $8 billion.

These humble industry plans to jumpstart a B.C. tidal power industry are a far cry from Nova Scotia’s burgeoning constellation of tidal companies, university research teams, think-tanks and government testing centres. Yet British Columbians have been inventing new tidal power technologies for over a decade—all three companies described above are over ten years old—and there is great potential to develop their ideas and expertise. Yet for the past decade their projects have stalled or are proceeding at a glacial pace. A hint as to why this might be can be found in the Climate Leadership Plan’s final report issued at the end of 2015. The final set of recommendations forwarded to the premier did not mention tidal power once. The bulk of the recommendations instead dealt with the vexing problem of making the proposed LNG industry fit into B.C.’s legislated carbon reduction targets.

There does not appear to be any plan to foster a tidal industry in British Columbia. A 2013 policy paper by BC Hydro largely dismissed tidal power as uneconomical, estimating that tidally-generated power would range from 26 to 54 cents per kWh, more expensive than any form of electricity except solar and wave power. Water Wall Turbine vigorously disputes these estimates as based on an outdated study by a British industry group. The province has no targets for tidal energy production and in 2012 completely scrapped Feed-In Tariffs, the same tariffs that make Nova Scotia’s tidal power industry possible.

During those same Climate Leadership Plan consultations Marine Renewables Canada, an industry group, also submitted a blistering letter. They decried a “loss of momentum” in development of the renewable energy sector “that is perhaps at odds with the ‘Need for Action’ element” of B.C.’s 2010 Clean Energy Act. They pointed to a variety of policy shifts that undercut the intent of the Clean Energy Act and stymied the development of an indigenous tidal energy sector. These actions included a capping of the carbon tax, a failure to include long term planning for climate change in B.C. Hydro’s resource analyses, various exemptions provided for the proposed LNG industry, the phase out of the Feed-In Tariff, a complete reversal on commitments to include clean energy industry job creation in planning future power projects, and a failure to pursue new energy technologies and homegrown energy industries.

Nevertheless there are good reasons that B.C. Hydro has not shown more interest in tidal power. B.C. thrives on some of the cheapest electricity in North America thanks to the province’s many legacy dams. With average prices under 5 cents per kWh, it becomes very difficult for any power source to compete with hydroelectric power unless they are supported by Feed-In Tariffs. And why would B.C. Hydro hand out Feed-In Tariffs when it already gets 87% of its power from renewable energy. If tidal power was to grow to make up a large share of the energy mix, it would probably not displace coal but cheap and abundant hydroelectric power. Nova Scotia on the other hand got 56% of its electricity from coal in 2015 and any gains in tidal power there are directly displacing greenhouse gas emissions.

There are still niches that tidal power is well suited to fit in this province, most obviously in replacing the diesel-electric generators that provide power to remote communities. Furthermore B.C. Hydro expects the province’s electricity demand will increase approximately 20% in the next 15 years and that power will have to come from somewhere. While mega-projects such as the Site C Dam may be attractive to B.C. Hydro for its ability to provide enormous quantities of power to LNG projects, they cause environmental problems and are barely justifiable from an economic perspective. A strong case can be made that focusing instead on tidal power, along with other renewables like geothermal, wind and solar, will lead to the development of green industries that can begin manufacturing for export, potentially paying enormous dividends down the road as the global economy decarbonizes. Politicians often speak of investing in the industries of the future. Surely tidal power qualifies as one. The same cannot be said of LNG.

When no treaty was signed between the government, and no war was fought over the land, first nations groups in Canada are entitled to the land on which they have historically lived and still inhabit.
In solar thermal energy collectors, the Absorber Area refers to the area absorbing the radiation
A technique where acidic solutions are pumped into a well, melting away debris about the bottom of the well and allowing the gas to flow more freely.
An electrical current that reverses its direction at regularly recurring intervals. Abbreviated to AC.
A series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen. Used for industrial and/or domestic purposes to manage waste and/or release energy.
A device used for measuring wind speed.
The average speed (and direction) of the wind over the course of a year.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC): A 21-nation group of Pacific-Rim nations that seeks to promote free trade, raise living standards, education levels and sustainable economic policies. Canada is a member.
The artificially increased discharge of water during the operation of hydroelectric turbines during periods of peak demand.
Small particles released into the atmosphere as part of the flue gases from a coal plant. Fly ash is dangerous for human health but most power plants use electrostatic precipitators to capture it before release.
The waters off the Atlantic provinces that has been producing oil and gas since the 1990s, and continues to have considerable untapped oil and gas potential. The region has similar geology to the oil-rich North Sea.
'The ionizing radiation which we are all inescapably exposed to every day. It comes from radon gas in the ground, the sun, distant supernovas, and even elements inside our own bodies. The average exposure is around 361 mrem per year for a person in Washington state (it varies by region).
Base-load power is that provided continuously, virtually year-round to satisfy a regions minimum electricity needs. Hydro and nuclear power are well-suited for base-load grid needs.
A renewable fuel in which soy or canola oil is refined through a special process and blended with standard diesel oil. Biodiesel does not contain ethanol, but research is underway to develop diesel blends with ethanol.
Renewable energy made available from materials derived from biological sources.
Natural gas, or methane, that is created by microbes consuming organic matter. Usually found near the Earths surface and is usually immediately released into the atmosphere.
Biological material from living, or recently living organisms such as trees, grasses, and agricultural crops. As an energy source, biomass can either be used directly, or converted into other energy products such as biofuel.
A facility that integrates biomass conversion processes and equipment to produce fuels, power, and chemicals from biomass. The biorefinery concept is analogous to petroleum refineries, which produce multiple fuels and products from petroleum.
Bitumen is "petroleum that exists in the semi-solid or solid phase in natural deposits. Bitumen is a thick, sticky form of crude oil, so heavy and viscous (thick) that it will not flow unless heated or diluted with lighter hydrocarbons. At room temperature, it is much like cold molasses."
Bottom Ash: Bottom ash are small particles that result from coal combustion, but unlike fly ash they are too heavy to be released into the atmosphere and must be stored.
Canadian Environmental Protection Act: Passed in 1999, CEPA is "An Act respecting pollution prevention and the protection of the environment and human health in order to contribute to sustainable development."
Cap and Trade: A system where the government sets a limit on how much of a pollutant may be emitted. It then sells the rights to emit that pollutant to companies, known as carbon credits, and allows them to trade the credits with other companies. The EU has implemented a cap and trade program for carbon dioxide.
Carbon Footprint: A calculation based on the set of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions caused by an organization, event, product, or person.
Carbon Sink: A carbon sink is a natural or artificial reservoir that accumulates and stores carbon-containing chemical compounds for an indefinite period.
Carbon Monoxide: A deadly gas produced from the tailpipe of cars that burn gasoline.
Capacity Factor: The ratio of the actual output of a power plant over a period of time and its potential to output if it had operated at full nameplate capacity the entire time.
Cellulose: An organic compound consisting of several hundred to over ten thousand linked glucose units. Cellulose comprises the structural component of the cell wall in plants, many green algae. It is the most common organic compound on Earth comprising about 33% of plant matter.
Cellulosic Biomass: Fuel produced from wood, grasses, or the non-edible parts of plants that is mainly comprised of cellulose.
Cellulosic Feedstock: The inedible cellulose which comprises most plants and trees. Yields are much higher as any part of the plant can be used and because they do not compete with food, therefore, cellulosic feedstock is an ideal candidate for large scale sustainable biofuel production.
Cetane Rating: Also known as cetane number (CN), this is a measurement of the combustion quality of diesel fuel during compression ignition. It is a significant expression of diesel fuel quality.
Clean Power Call: A request sent out by B.C. Hydro to private power utilities for new electricity-generating projects totalling 5,000 GWh/year. B.C. Hydro will help fund the successful projects and then buy power from them once completed.
How efficiently a turbine converts the energy in wind into electricity. Just divide the electrical power output by the wind energy input.
Using the energy left over from one primary energy conversion to fuel another. The most prominent example of this are natural gas co-generation plants which first feed fuel into a gas turbine. The residual heat from that reaction then heats water to spin a steam turbine.
Collector Area: In solar thermal energy collectors, the Collector Area refers to the area that intercepts the solar radiation.
A mixture of hydrocarbons present in natural gas. When gas is lowered below the hydrocarbon dew point, a condensate, that is, a liquid, forms. These can be used for combustion just like oil and gas. These are also known as natural gas liquids.
Generation of electricity using fossil fuels.
Gas reserves that form beneath porous layers of sandstone. Until recently this has been the only kind of gas commercially extracted.
When bituminous coal is baked at high temperatures it fuses together ash and carbon, creating coke. Coke can then be used to reduce the oxygen content of iron, strengthening it and creating steel.
A force generated by to the earths rotation which deflects a body of fluid or gas moving relative to the earths surface to the right in the northern hemisphere and to the left in the southern hemisphere. It is at its maximum at the poles and zero at the equator.
Decentralized Electricity Generation: Decentralizated electricity generation is a concept used to describe a large number of dispersed energy generators, often closely integrated with the people that use the electricity. Wind turbines and solar panels are good examples: they can be put within communities, be owned by members of the community and generate electricity for it. Alternatively centralized energy generation, far more common in North America, is where a small number of large plants owned by utility companies (hydro-electric, nuclear or fossil fuel) generate large quantities of electricity.
The portion of the oil business that involves refining the crude oil, bringing it to market and selling it. Gasoline service stations are the most lucrative part of downstream operations.
Effluents: Gases or liquids released by a human-made structure, in this case flue gases from a coal-fired power plant.
Electrolyte: Usually a solution of acids, bases, or salts, electrolytes are substances with free ions which make them effective electrical conductors.
Electrolysis: A simple technique for splitting water atoms to obtain hydrogen, driven by an electrical current.
Requirements that set specific limits to the amount of pollutants that can be released into the environment by automobiles and other powered vehicles, as well as emissions generated by industry, power plants, and small equipment.
Transforming one form of energy into another. Most energy conversions that run our economy are conversions from a primary source to electricity (wind or nuclear) or movement (oil).
Energy Currency: Energy that is usable for practical purposes. These include electricity and petroleum which power appliances and vehicles.
A measurement of the amount of energy stored in a given volume.
Energy Return On Investment (EROI): This is the ratio of usable energy obtained over the amount of energy required to get it. The oil sands has a low EROI because instead of being sucked out of the ground in liquid form the oil must be painstakingly mined and heavily refined, a process that requires large quantities of energy itself.
An energy source is the means by which energy is generated. The energy profiles each deal with a different source of energy, and most are simply means to attain the energy currency we all use: electricity.
Enhanced Geothermal System: A new technology, EGS does not require natural convective geothermal resources, but instead can draw power from the ground through extremely dry and impermeable rock.
The provincial Environmental Assessment Office is a politically neutral agency tasked with reviewing major construction projects in B.C. Their purview includes assessing the environmental, economic, social, heritage and health effects over the lifecycle of projects.
A blend of ethanol and diesel fuel. plus other additives, designed to reduce air pollution from heavy equipment, city buses and other vehicles that operate on diesel engines.
A policy device that encourages investment in renewable energies, usually by guaranteeing power producers that their energy will be bought.
In food processing, fermentation is the conversion of carbohydrates to alcohols and carbon dioxide or organic acids using yeasts, bacteria or a combination thereof, under anaerobic conditions. In simple terms, fermentation is the chemical conversion of sugars to ethanol.
A finite, or non-renewable resource, is one where a limited amount exists. Once the existing stocks of that resource are exhausted there will be no more, at least in any reasonable human time scale. Only so much fossil fuels and uranium exist on earth, making these finite, non-renewableresources. The wind, sun and tides are renewable resources since it is impossible to run out of them.
First Generation Renewable: Well established renewable technologies that emerged early on in the Industrial Revolution. These include hydropower, biomass combustion and early geothermal power.
Fission is a nuclear reaction where a heavy atom is hit by a neutron, causing it to split into lighter atoms, release more neutrons, and huge amounts of energy.
Flat-plate collectors are a type of non-concentrating solar energy collector, typically used when temperatures are below 200 degrees F. They are often used for heating buildings.
Flex-Fuel Vehicle: Also known as a dual-fuel vehicle, this is an alternative fuel vehicle with an internal combustion engine designed to run on more than one fuel, usually gasoline blended with either ethanol or methanol fuel.
Flue gases are the gases that are released into the atmosphere by a flue, or pipe, from the steam boiler.
Many biofuel feedstocks such as corn, sugarcane, and soybeans are also key sources of food for millions of people. Production of crops for bioenergy may displace other food-related crops, increasing the cost and decreasing the availability of food. The central question is one of ethics: Should we use our limited land resources to grow biofuels when the same land could be producing food for people?
Fracking: Hydraulic fracturing is the process of injecting high pressure fluids into deep, geologic formations, in order to fracture the rock and render it more permeable.
Fuel Crops: Crops grown specifically for their value as fuel to make biofuels or for their energy content.
Fumaroles: Openings in the Earths crust that emit steam and gases.
Gasohol: Otherwise known as fuel ethanol, gasohol has been distilled and dehydrated to create a high-octane, water free alcohol. All water must be removed because a water-alcohol mixture cannot dissolve in gasoline. Fuel ethanol is made unfit for drinking by adding a small amount of a noxious substance such as gasoline.
Geothermal Gradient: The rate at which temperature increases deeper into the earth, towards the earth's molten core.
Geothermal Task Force Team is a government program that aims to: develop policies, in collaboration with affected agencies, related to tenure issuance, examine the regulation of the use of geothermal resources not currently covered by legislation, build a royalty and resource rent model for geothermal resources, and develop a science based review of the known geothermal resources in the province.
Geyser: Springs characterized by intermittent discharge of water ejected turbulently and accompanied by steam.
Giromill Turbine: Uses lift forces generated by vertical aerofoils to convert wind energy into rotational mechanical energy. They are powered by two or three vertical aerofoils attached to a central mast by horizontal supports.
Glut: A situation where the market has been flooded with goods and there is more supply than there is demand causing the price of goods to drop.
Gravity Survey: A technique of measuring minute changes in the Earths gravity field. This allows geologists to map lighter and denser rocks underground.
Green Energy and Green Economy Act of 2009: Legislation by the province of B.C. to boost the investment in renewable energy projects and increase conservation, create green jobs and economic growth in Ontario. Part of Ontario's plan to become a leading green economy in North America.
Head: The term head refers to the change in elevation of the water.
Head Differential: The difference in pressure due to the difference in height of water level.
Heat Exchangers: These are used in High-Temperature and Low-Temperature applications to transfer heat from one medium to another. In Low-Temperature Geoexchange systems they are built into the heat pump.
Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine (HAWT): Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine. These are the most common types of wind turbines and look like aircraft propellers mounted atop towers.
Hydrocarbons: A compound of almost entirely hydrogen and carbon. This covers oil and natural gas. Coal, the third fossil fuel, contains so many impurities it is usually disqualified from this title.
Hydrostatic Head: The distance a volume of water has to fall in order to generate power.
Intermittent Energy Source: Any source of energy that is not continuously available due to a factor that is outside of direct control (ex. Wind speed or sunshine).
An internal combustion engine operates by burning its fuel inside the engine, rather than outside of it, as an external, or steam engine does. The most common internal combustion engine type is gasoline powered, followed by diesel, hydrogen, methane, and propane. Engines typically require adaptations (like adjusting the air/fuel ratio) to run on a different kind of fuel than they were designed for. Four-stroke internal combustion engines (each stroke marks a step in the combustion cycle) dominate the automotive and industrial realm today.
Kinetic Energy: The ability of water falling from a dam to do work, that is, to generate electricity. Water stored above a dam has potential energy which turns to kinetic energy once it begins to fall.
Levelized Cost of Electricity: The cost of generating electricity (capital, operation and maintenance costs). Measured in units of currency per unit of electricity (ex. kWh).
Magnetic Survey: A technique for measuring the intensity of magnetic fields from several stations.
Manhattan Project: The massive Anglo-American-Canadian scientific undertaking which produced the atomic bombs that helped end the Second World War. It marked the birth of the nuclear age and scientists were immediately aware of the potential to use use nuclear power for civilian use.
Market Penetration: The share of the total energy market a specific energy source has in relation to its competitors. So the market penetration of wind power would be measured by its share of the electricity market, while ethanol would be compared to other vehicle fuels, not to total primary energy use.
Matrix: In geology, this is the finer mass of tiny sediments in which larger sediments are embedded.
Methanol: Methanol is produced naturally in the anaerobic metabolism of many types of bacteria, and is ubiquitous in the environment. Methanol is toxic in humans if ingested or contacted on the skin. For its toxic properties and close boiling point with ethanol, that it is used as a denaturant for ethanol.
Miscanthus: A low maintenance perennial grass which is thought to be twice as productive as switch grass as it has a longer growing season, greater leaf area, and higher carbon storage per unit of leaf area.
MMBtu: A unit of measurement which means a million Btus (British thermal units). A Btu is roughly the amount of energy it takes to heat a half kilogram of water from 3.8 to 4.4 °C. MBtu is used for a thousand Btus.
Moderator: A moderator is used to slow down neutrons, which enables them to react with the atoms in the nuclear fuel. If enough atoms react then the reactor can sustain a nuclear chain reaction.
M Mount St. Helens is an active volcano located in Washington state. It is most famous for its catastrophic eruption on May 18, 1980 where fifty-seven people were killed, 250 homes, 47 bridges, 24 km of railways, and 298 km of highway were destroyed.
Mud-Pools: Pools of bubbling mud. Also known as "paint-pots" when the slurry of usually grey mud is streaked with red or pink spots from iron compounds.
Nacelle: The housing atop a wind turbine that holds the gearbox, generator, drive train and brakes, as well as the rotors.
Name-Plate Capacity: The intended full-load sustained output of a power plant. For example an average wind turbine's name-plate capacity is 2 Megawatts. The capacity factor is the actual output, so for that 2 MW wind turbine with an efficiency of around 30-35% (average) then it has a more realistic capacity of around 0.7 MW. Most power stations are listed in terms of their nameplate capacity.
National Energy Board: A regulatory agency established by the federal government in 1959 that is primarily tasked with regulating oil and gas pipelines that cross provincial and national borders.
National Energy Program: A set of policies enacted in 1980 that sought to make Canada energy independent. Petro-Canada was created and oil prices were kept artificially low to protect consumers. Shares of oil revenue were diverted to the federal government who used them mostly in the eastern provinces to offset a decline in manufacturing. The program was extremely unpopular in western Canada and was discontinued shortly thereafter.
Nuclear Renaissance: A term used by politicians and the media for the renewed interest in nuclear energy in the past decade. Many countries are now expanding their civilian nuclear programs.
Octane: The octane rating of a fuel is indicated on the pump – using numbers such as 87, 90, 91 etc. The higher the number, the greater the octane rating of the gasoline.
Oil in Place: The total hydrocarbon (oil and gas) content of a reservoir. Sometimes called STOOIP or Stock Tank Original Oil In Place.
Oil Patch: A term for the Canadian oil industry. This specifically means the upstream operations that find and extract oil and gas, mostly in Alberta but also B.C., the other prairie provinces, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Oil Window: The range of temperature at which oil forms. Below a certain temperature and kerogen will never progress to the form of oil. Too high and natural gas is formed instead.
OECD: The Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development is a 34 country organization dedicated to advocating democracy and the market economy. Membership is largely limited to Western Europe, North America, Australia and Japan, what are often considered the world's developed nations. Sometimes referred to in the media as the "rich countries' club".
Passive Seismic Survey: A way to detect oil and gas by measuring the Earths natural low frequency movements.
Peak Power Demand: Power demand varies over minutes, hours, days and months. Peak power demand are the times when the most people are using the most power. To meet this demand extra sources of power must be switched on. Some forms of electricity generation, such as natural gas turbines, can be turned on quickly to meet peak power demand and are better suited for this purpose than others, such as nuclear, which are better as sources of baseload power.
Permeability: A measure of the ability of a porous rock to allow fluids to pass through it. High permeability in the surrounding rocks is needed for the formation of gas reserves.
Photovoltaic Cell: A non-mechanical device typically fabricated from silicon alloys that generates electricity from direct sunlight.
Pickens Plan: Investment of $1 trillion into wind power in the U.S.A., named for an American oil tycoon. The plan aims to reduce the amount of foreign oil imported to the U.S.A. while providing economic and environmental benefits.
Pondage: The main difference between small and large hydro projects is the existence of stored power in the form of water which is held back by dams at large hydro stations. Some small hydro projects have pondage, however, which are small ponds behind the weir of a dam which can store water for up to a week.
Potential Energy: The energy stored in a body or a system.
Porosity: Closely related to permeability, this is a measure of the amount of "voids," or empty space in a rock where gas or oil can pass through to collect in a reservoir.
Possible Reserves: Possible reserves are a class of unproven reserves that geologists use for oil that they are only 10% sure is present in the ground.
Purchasing Power Agreement: A contract between two parties, one who generates power for sale, and another who is looking to purchase it. B.C. Hydro buys power from companies that build their own power generating stations.
Primary Battery: A primary battery is one that is non-rechargable because the electrochemical reaction goes only one way. It gives out energy and cannot be reversed.
Primary Gas: The degeneration of decayed organic matter directly into gas through a process called "thermal cracking." This is opposed to secondary gas which is formed from decayed oil that has already formed.
Probable Reserves: Probable reserves are a class of unproven reserves that geologists use for oil or gas that they are at least 50% sure is actually present.
Proven Reserves: An amount of a resource any resource to be dug out of the ground (oil, coal, natural gas or uranium in energy terms) that geologists have a 90% or higher certainty can be extracted for a commercial gain with the technology available at the time."
Recompleted: The process, by which an old oil well is redrilled, fractured, or has some other technology applied to improve the amount of oil recovered.
Reforming: In oil refining, reforming is using heat to break down, or crack, hydrocarbon atoms and increase their octane level. This technique creates some left-over hydrogen which can be collected and used.
Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS): Law that requires electric utilities to produce some portion of their power from renewable sources like wind, solar, geothermal or biomass. RPSs are necessary to keep renewables competitive in an era of cheap natural gas electricity.
Rent-Seeking: The practice of using resources to compete for existing wealth rather than to create new wealth, often to the detriment of those who seek to reform societies or institutions. Economies that fail to diversify away from oil are often pre-dominated by a rent-seeking mind-set where people become more pre-occupied with securing the windfall resouce profits for themselves, usually oil, rather than seeking to develop new industries.
Reserves: The fraction of the oil in place that can be considered extractable. This depends not only on the geology, but the economics (is oil expensive enough to make extracting it profitable?) and technology.
Reserve Growth: When an oil or gas field is first discovered, reserve estimates tend to be low. The estimates of the size of the field are expected to grow over time and this is called reserves growth.
Ring of Fire: The Pacific Ring of Fire is a region of high volcanic and seismic activity that surrounds the majority of the Pacific Ocean. This region is essentially a horseshoe of geologic activity, characterized by volcanoes, earthquakes, deep sea trenches, and major fault zones.
Riparian: The term riparian refers to the wetland area surrounding rivers or streams. A riparian ecosystem refers to the biological community supported by an area around a river.
Savonius Turbine: Uses drag generated by the wind hitting the cup, like aerofoils, to create rotation.
Second Generation Wind Turbine: Technology that is only now beginning to enter the market as a result of research, development and demonstration. These are: solar, wind, tidal, advanced geothermal and modern bioenergy. Much hope has been placed upon these technologies but they still provide only a fraction of our energy.
Secondary Battery: Rechargable batteries are sometimes known as secondary batteries because their electro-chemical reactions can be reversed.
Secondary Gas: When oil is subjected to so much heat and pressure it degenerates into gas. The process through which this happens called "thermal cracking."
Secondary Recovery Schemes: When so much oil has been sucked out of an oil reservoir it will lose pressure and the oil will no longer flow out of the reservoir from natural pressure. When this happens secondary recovery schemes can be employed. This means that fluids or gases are pumped into the well to increase pressure and push the remaining oil up out of the well.
Shale: A type of sedimentary rock with low permeability, which was once thought to prevent any commercial extraction of the gas inside. Fracking allows gas developers to access it.
Sound Navigation and Ranging (SONAR): Initially devised as a technique for detecting submarines. An emitter sends off pulses of sound. The pulses bounce off objects and return to a receiver which interprets their size and distance.
Spot Market: A market where commodities are traded for immediate delivery. A future market on the other hand is one where delivery is expected later on. Because of the dependence of gas users on those who are at the other end of the gas pipeline, the natural gas market is mostly a futures market.
Steam Coal: Steam coal is coal used for power generation in thermal power plants. This is typically coal that ranges in quality from sub-bituminous to bituminous.
Straight Vegetable Oil (SVO): Vegetable oil fuel. Most diesel engine vehicles can run on it so long as the viscosity of the oil is lowered enough for complete combustion. Failure to do this can damage the engine. SVO is also known as pure plant oil or PPO.
Strategic Petroleum Reserve: An emergency store of oil maintained by some governments and corporations. The U.S. Department of Energy holds 727 million barrels of oil.
Subcritical Power Plant: A coal-fired power plant that operates at less than 550ËšC. Because the temperatures and pressures are than other plants, these plants operate at a low efficiency, around 33-35%. These plants are still the most common in the world and many are under construction
Supercritical Power Plant: Supercritical plants are coal powered power plants that can sustain temperatures of 550ËšC to 590ËšC and transfer up to 40% of the coals energy into power. This technology has only come into use in recent years. Most new coal-fired power plants built in the West are supercritical.
Switchgrass: One of the dominant native species of the North American prairies, tallgrass is being researched as a renewable bioenergy crop. It is a a native perennial warm season grass with the ability to produce moderate to high yields on marginal farmlands.
Thermal Power Plant: A thermal power plant is any that is powered by a steam turbine. The steam is created by heating water which in turn spins the turbine. Most coal and gas power stations operate in this way, as do all nuclear plants. Coal powered and gas plants are often just called thermal plants.
Total Carbon Cost: The amount of carbon dioxide emitted during an action or a process. One exmaple is building a natural gas plant. The total carbon cost would include everything from the carbon emitted to get the materials to build the plant, to the carbon emitted in the building of the plant, and the carbon emitted during the operation of the plant.
Unconventional Gas: Unconventional gas reserves come in many different geological formations, and include tight gas, shale gas, coalbed methane and methane hydrates. Extraction of these sources has only just begun and has hugely extended the lives of many gas fields and unlocking many new ones. The unlocking of unconventional gas reserves in the last five years has revolutionized the global energy system.
Ultracritical Power Plant: These are coal thermal power plants that operate above 590ËšC and can attain efficiencies above 40%. These plants are just coming into service.
Undiscovered Reserves: The amount of oil and gas estimated to exist in unexplored areas. Much of B.C. has not been thoroughly explored for fossil fuel potential and many of the estimates of B.C. fossil fuel resources rely on the concept of undiscovered resources
United States Geological Survey (USGS): The United States Geological Survey. The department responsible for estimating American fossil fuel reserves. They also conduct many studies that span the globe.
Unproven Reserves: Oil reserves in the ground that petroleum geologists are less certain are there, but have strong reason to believe is present. Unproven reserves can be broken down into probable reserves and possible reserves. These numbers are used within oil companies but not usually published.
The portion of the oil business that involves finding oil and extracting it.
Uranium is a heavy metal that is naturally radioactive. An isotope, U-235 can be enriched to support a nuclear chain reaction. Uranium is used in many nuclear power plants.
A 2,730 MW dam built in north-eastern British Columbia along the Peace River during the 1960s.
Any activity where humans bore down into the Earth to access reserves of oil or gas trapped in underground geological formations.
These are produced from wood residue (like sawdust) collected from sawmills and wood product manufacturers. Heat and pressure are used to transform wood residue into pellets without chemical additives, binders or glue. The pellets can be used in stoves and boilers.
A remote mountain in Western Nevada where the U.S. Department of Energy has planned on storing all of the country's spent nuclear fuel underground since the 1990s. The proposal met stiff opposition from local residents and in 2009 the project was cancelled.