HARNESSING FUNDY: AN OLD, OLD DREAM (January 15/08)

There’s nothing new under the sun goes an old cliché, and it certainly applies to the current plans to harness the Fundy tides.

In fact, on at least two occasions in the past that I know of, attempts have been made to harness the powerful tides of the Bay of Fundy at Cape Split to generate electricity. Apparently it was the dream two respected members of Acadia University, one of them its president. This was in 1916, and it was a grand scheme that almost got off the ground, failing possibly because it was simply ahead of its time.

In 1916 the Cape Split Development Company was formed; an announcement followed that the problem of harnessing the Fundy tides had been solved. The CSDC said that once their project was completed, cheap, unlimited electric power would be available immediately to Kings County, and in the future to the entire Maritimes.

From what I’ve read in documents available at Acadia University and in newspaper accounts, the project was the brainchild of Acadia University president George Barton Cutten and University professor of engineering, R. P. Clarkson. A prospectus released by the CSDC announced that at the core of the plan was the Clarkson Current Motor, which Professor Clarkson had invented and patented.

Basically, the project involved using the Clarkson Motor to pump seawater from the base of Cape Split into reservoirs in the cliffs some 300 feet above; from the reservoirs, water would then be dropped down chutes to turbines in the powerhouse at the base of the cliffs.

According to the prospectus, a charter had been granted, land had been acquired and some preliminary work had been done. Public shares were offered by the Company but despite the fact that some prominent local businessmen were involved, a drive to raise the necessary financing fizzled out. After a few years in existence, and undoubtedly after a few more unsuccessful funding drives, the CSDC quietly folded.

Earlier, coincidentally just 100 years ago, another grand scheme was proposed to build a causeway from Cape Split across to the shore near Spencer’s Island, a distance of about five kilometers.

Little is known about this plan or how much groundwork was done, but diagrams found at Acadia University years ago indicate the causeway would hold turbines to generate electricity. This may simply have been some engineer’s dream, but it tells us the current plan to harness Fundy tides is not a new idea.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s