Monday, January 2, 2012

Steal My Idea: Save the New Brunswick Economy!

A few months ago, the Irving Shipyards at Halifax, Nova Scotia, won the lion's share of a shipbuilding contract for the Royal Canadian Navy, and in my hometown of Saint John, New Brunswick, there has been a sort of anticipatory glee. The contract is too large for a single shipyard at Halifax to produce in a timely fashion, and it is hoped that Saint John, which was formerly (well formerly) one of the ship-building capitals of the world, will pick up some of the slack. And that on its own is great news for the city, but I am not so sure that the ripple-effects will help the entire province.

We are currently spending an enormous sum of money to retrofit what I understand to be Atlantic Canada's only nuclear power reactor, the Point LePreau station. New Brunswick is in a small bit of an energy crunch, what's more. More generation is needed. I live sandwiched between the two dirties forms of commercial energy generation... the nuclear Lepreau site, and a coal-fired plant at Colson's Cove. You probably guessed from my failed blogging start-up Green Wonk that I'm a bit of a nut for energy efficiency and clean technologies.

Saint John, and much the rest of New Brunswick, is not directly on the Atlantic Ocean, but instead on the very large Bay of Fundy, a body of water which we claim to have the highest tides (in terms of variation from low to high tide) in the world, though I understand that distinction is somewhat disputed by parties in France and elsewhere. Evidence of the dramatic difference in tides can be seen at the famous Hopewell Rocks sight, perhaps the most iconic depiction of the flux, though I have always liked the Tidal Tower installation at the museum in the Market Square shopping centre... a little closer to home.

High tidal flux means high change in potential energy. Use of tidal power for electrical generation is not a new technology. Nova Scotia already has commercial installations. I propose we get in the game. Not by rights of the provincial government hiring out to companies abroad, but through local business, designing, constructing, and installing generation capacity by the sweat of Brunswicker brows and in New Brunswick's waters. Hell, other green technologies have since been realized on household-scale levels. People with off-the-grid campsites and cabins already use solar and wind to power their vacations. What's a cooler-sized turbine cast into the bay each weekend?

This could save us. Right here, right now, today. It's good for the economy, good for the globe, and good business sense. The reason New Brunswick has the economy it does is because most of the province still thinks like they are in 1973.

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