New 2015 timeline shows NS gov’t concerned over tidal costs

Nick Fyffe of Cape Sharp Tidal

Nick Fyffe of Cape Sharp Tidal said in 2015 that Parrsboro could become a centre for  turbine assembly, maintenance and repair

The Nova Scotia government continues to back the long-term development of tidal power in the Bay of Fundy, but my newly published timeline of events in 2015 shows the province is increasingly concerned about costs.

Melissa Oldreive, a tidal policy analyst with the Nova Scotia Energy Department alluded to those concerns last week during a public meeting in Parrsboro. She referred to what are known as feed-in tariffs, the 53-cents per kilowatt hour that tidal developers have been guaranteed if they succeed in feeding electricity onto the Nova Scotia power grid from the FORCE test site at Black Rock.

“They’re higher than the rate that you would pay for your electricity at home,” Oldreive said adding the tariffs were designed as an incentive to attract tidal developers to Nova Scotia.

While she made it clear that the companies planning to deploy turbines at the FORCE site can continue to count on those high rates, the government is changing the rules for the next set of developers.

“Last year we released our electricity plan which is really about moving away from guaranteed feed-in tariffs,” she said. “We’re moving to a more competitive environment to ensure that our (Nova Scotia Power) ratepayers are not unduly burdened by developments of renewable energy technologies.”

According to its 25-year electricity plan released in November, the province is looking at tidal production of only 17 to 22 megawatts at the FORCE site between now and the early 2020s with a longer-term goal of 300 megawatts from all sites in the Bay of Fundy.

It’s clear from the timeline, however, that at least one developer is talking about more ambitious plans.

According to a report in the Halifax Herald, Cape Sharp Tidal, a partnership between the Halifax-based Emera Inc. and the French-owned OpenHydro, said in July it will seek approval to produce 12 more megawatts at the FORCE site in 2017 on top of the 4MW it has already been awarded.

It also said it wants to find an additional site in the Bay of Fundy and will seek approval to generate 50MW in 2019 and up to 300MW in 2020. (See timeline entry for July 2015.)

During an open house in Parrsboro back in September, Nick Fyffe, Cape Sharp’s site development manager, gave a slightly different version to Warktimes when he cited figures for the number of turbines the company would need to generate that much tidal power.

Fyffe said that Phase II planned for 2017 would require six; Phase III in 2019 would need 25 and Phase IV sometime in the 2020s would require 150.

When asked if Parrsboro could be in the running for facilities to assemble and maintain these turbines, Fyffe replied, “Certainly, I don’t see why not. It’s obviously very close to the FORCE site and probably one of the other sites we would go into in the Minas Passage.”

It remains to be seen whether Cape Sharp’s optimism will be borne out by events. The company missed its 2015  target date for installing the two 2MW turbines that it now plans to deploy at the FORCE site this spring.

And the province appears unwilling to issue more licences until tidal costs come down.

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