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Promising results from tidal-energy floating turbine, designed to power remote B.C. communities

Tidal energy project on remote West Thurlow Island will help wean off-grid coastal communities from diesel generators, researchers say
Project manger Dr. Ben Whitby with Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED) describes a Triaxys directional wave buoy at a funding announcement at the University of Victoria Marine Technology Centre Thursday. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

A tidal energy project on remote West Thurlow Island could help off-grid coastal communities wean themselves off diesel generators and switch to clean, renewable energy, researchers say.

The University of Victoria’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED) said a floating turbine on the east side of West Thurlow, about 35 kilometres off Campbell River, is showing promising early results.

A $2-million funding injection from the province on Thursday is expected to help UVic ramp up development, testing and deployment of tidal turbines on West Thurlow, so the system can be replicated in remote coastal communities in B.C. and around the world.

As a testing ground, the eastern shore of West Thurlow has ideal ocean currents along with a community of private residences, marina, refuelling station, post office, general store and restaurant that are supporting the project.

The community is anchored by the Blind Channel Resort, a family business that offers seasonal accommodation, mainly for boaters.

Eliot Richter, president of Blind Channel Resort, said he welcomes the UVic partnership and is hopeful the new funding will transition the community away from a reliance on diesel fuel.­­­

“We’re excited for the opportunity to help facilitate tidal energy technology development,” Richter said Thursday in a statement. “With public support, tidal energy has the potential to become a viable, clean energy solution for small communities like ours and significantly reduce our carbon footprint.”

Energy Minister Josie Osborne said West Thurlow Island is serving as a “real life laboratory” that will help other remote communities transition to renewable energy.

She said B.C. has one of the longest coastlines in the world, but more than 50 coastal communities still depend on fossil fuels for heat, light, transportation and industry.

Osborne said UVic’s Blind Channel Test Centre is an innovator in using renewable energy sources like tides, wind and solar, and the UVic partnership will help communities reduce their carbon footprints and protect the ocean for future generations.

The project will compare the new technologies and test how they perform in conditions on the West Coast, which is considered one of the most energetic tidal and wave climates in the world.

Local power generation would be a boon for remote communities that are at greater risk of power disruptions during periods of bad weather.

Established in 2017, PRIMED is a marine energy commercialization centre at UVic’s Marine Technology Centre in North Saanich focused on helping off-grid coastal ­communities transition to a clean energy.

PRIMED operates within UVic’s Institute for Integrated Energy Systems, which provides leadership in the study of critical energy issues, human dimensions of energy, education and training and works closely with industry, not-for-profits and government.

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