Tidal energy turbine on the move, but not far
15 Jun, 2017 • HEATHER DESVEAUX
Cape Sharp Tidal finally recovered its turbine Thursday morning from the Minas Passage.
This week the company managed to get the mooring line untangled and lifted out of where it was wrapped around the device’s subsea tubes.
The company has been trying to recover the 1,000-tonne device since mid-April, an operation that was supposed to take just 12 hours during a low tide.
Fisherman and industry-watcher Darren Porter said tidal energy is becoming Nova Scotia’s 50 shades of grey.
“Our government . . . had better soon tighten up these grey areas before the province loses its sovereignty over its waters to big energy corporations,” he said in an interview.
Tidal proponents put down a $1 million bond each in case government needs to handle any turbine recovery.
Porter said that amount should be re-evaluated because the 12-hour recovery fail-safe identified last fall has proven to be false.
“We just witnessed how that didn’t turn out to be accurate. It took the company two months, a very expensive two months,” said Porter. “Taxpayers don’t ever want to be on the hook for that.”
Now that the turbine is recovered, it will make a stop before heading to Saint John for repairs to its power conversion equipment.
The Chronicle Herald has learned that Cape Sharp has asked the provincial Department of Natural Resources for a Crown lease to do some testing in St. Mary’s Bay, the scene of a massive herring die-off in late 2016.
DNR didn’t affirm that on Thursday, but that was what Christian Richard, Emera’s vice-president of special projects, wrote to stakeholders Wednesday, describing the work in St. Mary’s Bay as not a redeployment of the turbine.
“In preparation for this testing activity, we have been in continuing contact with our regulators, including NSE, DNR, DFO and Transport Canada,” wrote Richard.
“We have applied for a permit required from DNR, an application for the use of Crown land. There are no other permits or environmental assessments required.”
Richard said the St. Mary’s Bay site was chosen because of its characteristics relating to water clarity, low tidal flows, proper depth, and because there is currently no lobster fishing in the area.
The Chronicle Herald has asked DNR for lease specifics, such as duration, lease costs and other costs to the company, but has not had a response.
The lease the department negotiated with FORCE in 2012 for sea-floor access was for 10 years at a yearly rent of $1,204 plus an undisclosed administration fee, with the right to renew the lease for a further 10 years but at renegotiated rental terms. FORCE’s first lease expires in February 2022.
The proposed testing Cape Sharp wants to conduct was initially expected to take place in the Bay of Fundy off the coast between Fraserville and Spencer’s Island in the Minas Channel, but local fishermen kicked up a fuss.
Not only would operations interfere with fishing grounds, they said, but also it was outside the FORCE (Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy) site that was leased after $1 million in research and environmental assessment costs.
A site survey funded by NSPI and NS Energy released in 2006 that evaluated eight potential spots around the bay ranked the Minas Channel second only to the Minas Passage for extractable power.
Significantly lower are the Petite Passage and Grand Passage leading to St Mary’s Bay that other smaller proponents are eyeing.
Reports are that Digby-area fishermen aren’t too happy with some of the local scallop fisheries starting up in St. Mary’s Bay, either. The company told stakeholders that testing would be for 5-10 days.
DFO Maritimes said their department evaluated the proposed testing but did not say who, if anyone, would be monitoring it to ensure the turbine was not being set down on the sea floor.
If it was, that could create another defacto test site without the heavy investment and oversight the FORCE site had before it could start signing on proponents like Cape Sharp.