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Marine energy technology being tested in Discovery Islands

West Thurlow Island serving as real-life laboratory for clean energy projects
West Thurlow Island is 35 km north of Campbell River. Photo courtesy Google Maps

An island 35 km from Campbell River is serving as a test site for new technologies that will help coastal communities transition to community-owned renewable energy.

The University of Victoria’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery (PRIMED) has set up a test centre on West Thurlow Island, which is just northeast of Campbell River. The Blind Channel Test Centre has been given $2 million in provincial funding for its research on tidal turbines, wind energy, solar power and low-carbon hydrogen.

“British Columbia has one of the longest and most beautiful coastlines in the world, but more than 50 coastal communities still depend on polluting fossil fuels for heat, light, transportation and industry,” said Josie Osborne, Minister of Energy, Mines and Low Carbon Innovation. “The University of Victoria’s Blind Channel Test Centre is an innovator in using renewable energy sources like tides, wind and solar, and I’m so pleased to see this partnership and how it’s helping communities reduce their carbon footprint and protect our oceans for future generations.”

The Blind Channel Test Centre will compare the different technologies and test their performance in West Coast conditions. The region is home to one of the most energetic tidal and wave climates on the globe. The goal is to help communities that are at a greater risk to power disruption during bad weather. A release from the province says that remote communities that are at greater risk can benefit from local power generation to help bring resiliency during unexpected events.

“North Island communities feel a deep connection to the ocean, and an unwavering responsibility to take care of it. It’s great to see the University of Victoria’s Pacific Regional Institute for Marine Energy Discovery on the leading edge of clean energy research that will help remote communities like West Thurlow Island reduce diesel use, powering them up to be part of the marine economy,” said North Island MLA Michele Babchuk.

“Marine renewable technology has incredible potential as a source for clean energy, and B.C. will benefit from investing in the development of wind, wave and tidal energy technologies right here on the West Coast,” said George Heyman, Minister of Environment and Climate Change Strategy. “This funding will help continue the incredible and important work of UVic’s PRIMED to develop clean energy technologies for coastal communities and further our electrification plans.”

The PRIMED lab has been in operation for nearly 20 years, and is recognized internationally for its work in helping off-grid coastal communities and industries find renewable energy alternatives.

“Innovative renewable energy projects have the potential to change the world and partnerships are the key to making it happen. This project takes a novel, community-focused approach to catalyzing energy independence in rural and remote communities throughout B.C. and beyond,” said Lisa Kalynchuk, vice-president, research and innovation, University of Victoria.

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