Floating on the surface and spinning less than 10 revolutions per minute, the tidal-powered paddlewheel being tested by Haida Gwaii’s own Yourbrook Energy Systems seeks to avoid many of the environmental and maintenance issues with faster, seafloor-mounted tidal projects. (Andrew Hudson/Haida Gwaii Observer)

Yourbrook Energy looks to scale up tidal project

Yourbrook Energy Systems hopes a new engineering study will help it build a larger prototype of its tidal power plant.

Late last month, engineers with the National Research Council visited Haida Gwaii to study the small prototype the homegrown company has built so far — a slow-spinning, surface water wheel that can use inshore tidal currents to drive a hydroelectric generator.

Clyde Greenough, chief operations officer for Yourbook Energy, says the study will assess how well the small prototype is working, and also provide the data they need to scale up to a larger 500-kilowatt version.

RELATED: Water ways — Looking at renewable energy on Haida Gwaii

Besides the study, Yourbrook is applying to set up a working demonstration project at a site on the east side of Masset Inlet, north of Kumdis Island.

“We’re just going through an application process now,” said Greenough, noting that it involves the Council of the Haida Nation, B.C.’s natural resources ministry, and BC Parks.

RELATED: Homegrown tidal-power prototype launches in Juskatla Narrows

Last year, Yourbrook tested its small prototype in Juskatla Narrows, but the company agreed to seek another site for a demonstration project after Haida hereditary leaders raised concerns about using Juskatla.

Along with a larger water wheel, the demonstration version would include a closed loop of water pipes to run a hydro generator, plus an upland water reservoir to drive the generator when the tide goes slack and the water wheel isn’t pumping.

Tidal currents in Masset Inlet aren’t as strong as in Juskatla Narrows, and the height of land is much lower — about 90 metres, compared with the 280-metre peak near the narrows. Still, Greenough said the site should work well for a demonstration.

In order to provide clean power to the northern Haida Gwaii grid, which includes all communities north of Tlell, Yourbrook would likely need to build four 500kW tidal pumps.

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