Design and Power

STUDENT Eric Baczuk, Dalhousie University
LOCATION Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia

World energy demand is increasing. The devastating effects of climate change, unprecedented volatility in the world’s energy markets and the destabilizing effects of transnational energy corporations all indicate that the existing global energy structure demands radical amendment. Environmental awareness, mounting concerns over energy security, and increasingly frequent power outages have recently amplified public interest in energy issues. Today, people are demanding more from their utility providers than unlimited supply at rock-bottom rates. Social awareness is driving issues such as transparency, equality and environmental accountability to the forefront of the global energy agenda. Renewable energy sources, such as solar and wind power, have already witnessed marked increases in production capacity and efficiency over recent years. However, they continue to remain largely overlooked as significant contributors to most power distribution networks. The aim of this thesis is to demonstrate the “real world” viability of large-scale renewable energy production in Nova Scotia and illustrate how socially engaging building program and typology could help redefine the public’s overall perception of the energy industry.

Renewable energy differs intrinsically from conventional power production in that it, by its very nature, is regionally specific. Unlike coal or oil, which can be transported and combusted in power plants virtually anywhere, renewable energy developments require a very specific set of geographic, climatic or geological criteria such as strong winds, clear skies, volcanic vents, etc. The massive tidal range of the Bay of Fundy in Eastern Canada offers one such example; with ocean currents over 10 knots and tidal ranges exceeding 17 metres, the Bay of Fundy is the most promising site on earth for tidal in-stream energy conversion (TISEC). By focusing on the systemic connections between nature, technology and society, this project puts forth design interventions that simultaneously respond to both the unique cultural and physical characteristics of the region while demonstrating the awesome potential of TISEC technology.

This project proposes that a suite of TISEC facilities could be installed throughout the Fundy basin, supplying jobs and clean tidal power to the region. The prototype and flagship installation of this tidal-energy program would be F-TEC(1), or Fundy Tidal Energy Conversation Station #1, located 10 kilometres southwest of Parrsboro on the northern tip of the Minas Channel. At mid-tide, more water passes through this Channel than all the rivers and streams on earth combined. This fact, coupled with well established electrical and transportation infrastructure, makes Parrsboro stand out as the ideal location for a large-scale TISEC development. At this 150-square-kilometre ocean site, up to 150 TISEC units could be deployed (spaced on a one-kilometre grid), generating up to 900 MW of carbon-free ocean energy. Electricity produced at off-peak times would be used to create and store hydrogen gas, which could be later spent in fuel cells–like a giant battery–that would supply the grid in times of high demand.

Additionally, a unique hydrogen-fuelled submarine ferry service would offer visitors an alternative to driving from Halifax or the Annapolis Valley. This system, which would be built off of the turbine infrastructure, was developed to reduce the number of cars rounding the Minas Basin, and offers visitors an unparallelled, undersea experience of tidal turbines in action while socially connecting the communities from across the channel.

The land-based components of F-TEC(1) would consist of 16 distinct buildings and landscape interventions, accommodating a whole host of services, from power upgrading and hydrogen storage to kayak rentals and the performing arts. Each building was thoughtfully designed to work within the environmental context of the development, while responding to the specific geographic constraints of its site. Compact building footprints, minimized tree clearing and nominal earth-moving ensure that the development would have as little impact as possible on the existing watershed and ecosystem.

F-TEC(1) aims to demonstrate how nature and the energy industry might coexist to offer a viable and sustainable energy future for Nova Scotia. Walking paths, bicycle rentals, and regular shuttle service from Parrsboro all encourage guests to visit and explore the site through a variety of low-energy means. Campgrounds, park spaces, lookouts, bookstores, restaurants, an amphitheatre and a renewable energy science centre all place human perception at the centre of the F-TEC(1) experience. These features and activities aim to overcome the social and psychological barriers that exist in conventional power stations. By creating an atmosphere that is open, transparent and welcoming to the public, F-TEC(1) promises to redefine the commercial energy industry in Nova Scotia.

GH: This proposal is a “future world” concept, where we are able to create new institutions to celebrate our relationship to nature and the resources we require from her. This is a brave design with heroic aspirations. I can detect more than a hint of cautious cultural commentary.

JPL: When looking at this presentation, I see the expression of a great deal of hope as well as lots of worries about our future and our planet.

PR: This thesis has a very provocative title. It is concerned very much with energy but it recognizes political struggles in the future of development with respect to energy projects. It’s a bit of a fantastical project that looks into the future, and tries to have renewable energy facilities to not only provide energy but also stimulate the local economy. The whole tone of the incredibly rich and evocative graphical and design expression of this presentation possesses a nice blend of anticipating both a scary and optimistic future. This scheme engages people–the attempt to provide social and tourist amenities as well as jobs is a great one. This is an exciting exploration, as it handles a large landscape at an appropriate scale with this suite of buildings and facilities.