Tempest in a turbine: another tidal delay at Black Rock

TV footage of OpenHydro turbines.

TV footage of Cape Sharp Tidal turbines

A scientific report from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) appears to have triggered another delay in the deployment of tidal turbines in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro.

Cape Sharp Tidal had been planning to install a 2MW turbine this month at its test site managed by FORCE, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy. The first of the company’s two turbines is sitting in Pictou ready for its two-week ocean voyage around Nova Scotia to the Bay of Fundy. But the 1,000 tonne, five-storey-high turbine cannot by deployed without provincial approval and so far, that approval hasn’t been granted.

The DFO report, released in April, points to shortcomings in the required environmental monitoring programs that the company and FORCE have proposed for the tidal test site at Black Rock. The report also suggests more studies may be needed to properly assess the effects of tidal turbines on fish, lobster and marine mammals.

The Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association cited the DFO report in a lengthy petition handed to Premier McNeil about 10 days ago. The petition, also posted on Facebook, calls for a halt to installation of tidal turbines in the Minas Passage and the removal of all power cables and other equipment already installed there.

The DFO report is also cited by the Ecology Action Centre in its statement calling for postponing the deployment of turbines until a proper environmental monitoring program is in place. The respected, Halifax-based, environmental group stresses that it strongly supports the development of renewable, tidal power, but says the concerns raised in the DFO report need to be resolved before turbine testing moves forward.

Government delays approval

Last Thursday, Margaret Miller, Nova Scotia’s Environment Minister, told CBC she would not authorize installation of another turbine until she’s satisfied with the proposed environmental monitoring program. A spokeswoman for the provincial department e-mailed this statement to WarkTimes:

“At this point, Nova Scotia Environment, in consultation with the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans, is currently reviewing the Environmental Effects Monitoring Program (EEMP) required as part of the Environmental Assessment Approval. Written authorization from the department is required before the device can be installed.”

Last week, Cape Sharp Tidal also told CBC it has delayed shipping its turbine to the test site pending consultations with the fishermen who say tidal turbines do not belong in the ecologically sensitive Minas Passage. The fishermen’s association is raising money for a possible legal challenge to the installation of turbines there.

Deployment still likely soon

It’s not clear yet how these developments will affect the installation of Cape Sharp Tidal turbines at Black Rock. Until last week, deployment seemed imminent with media reports, like this one in the Globe and Mail, celebrating the positive economic effects of Fundy tidal power.

It seems most likely given the millions already invested by private industry and both levels of government that provincial officials will agree with Graham Daborn, a retired scientist from Acadia, who argues that environmental effects can be gauged with more certainty only after some test turbines are already in the water.

Last month, the Offshore Energy Research Association released Daborn’s  37-page report on the scores of research studies that have been conducted in the Bay of Fundy over the last decade. Regulatory officials will also likely point to many more studies to come.

Here are some of DFO’s criticisms of FORCE’s proposed environmental monitoring program as identified by the Ecology Action Centre:

  • Inadequate monitoring of the effect tidal turbines may have on lobster.
  • Insufficient year-round “baseline” data on the presence of marine mammals in the Minas Passage that would be needed to measure and monitor any behaviourial changes that the turbines may cause.
  • Inadequate provisions for monitoring the changes in fish levels during the winter months.
  • Insufficient measures to mitigate or alleviate negative effects that might arise during the testing of tidal turbines.
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4 Responses to Tempest in a turbine: another tidal delay at Black Rock

  1. David Howe says:

    Could anything be more incompetent? If I were to spend several million dollars building a turbine and a transmission line to carry its output I would ensure it met all the regulations first. I would also check that even if it worked it would produce electricity at an economic price, which this turbine will not.

    • Yes I do agree with incompetency comment BUT on the other half of this development we are now delving into the sphere of lunacy!….The groups that are putting this project into delay mode are the same ones that, if left to their own ends, would see the entire human race return to living in caves and rubbing sticks together to get fire….even at that they would take the cave-dwellers to task for destroying the forest! Let’s get a reality check on this bunch of conscious objectors, and get on with a test site, and then decide if it is viable or not!! If it was left to this bunch we never would have made it to the moon. This situation has degenerated into environmental lunacy in the name of caution! This bunch will still be sitting on the shore of Fundy Bay with their feet in the water reveling in their abilities to kill this project and burn the money spent so far when a Richard Branson type will have it up and running somewhere else on the planet to the benefit of all of us. I for one am fed right up to here with these do-gooder groups…put the lot of them on the rusting Farley Mowatt in Shelburne harbour and set it adrift!

      • marke slipp says:

        It is probably better to have “conscious objectors” than to have the unconscious, non-critical thinking kind. In fact, the people that have put a halt to the tidal power turbines going in are actually fishermen. Their concerns are valid; the environmental monitoring program is NOT in place. The third party oversight is NOT happening. Government, industry & academics are all in bed together and the self-congratulation got the best of them.

        Perhaps once they get their act together this source of renewable energy (supported by environmentalists, FWIW) might be found to be a viable source of energy. As it is, they haven’t established a credible scientific baseline from which to relate any new data. They have been told this many times over the past decade but they keep saying they need the turbines in the water before they can find out what impact they have. Of course they do, but first they need to have a comprehensive environmental assessment of the area … not just one that quantifies the rocks, currents & temperatures.

  2. I agree with Graham Daborn – the effects can only be monitored after you put the turbine in. It is indeed a complete failure of the government to not have the regulatory system in place, but we are also suffering from extreme NIMBY-ism here. The diameter of these two turbines is about 0.05% of the width of the Minas Passage. Really, do these so-called environmentalists think that every fish and marine mammal will head for that location? And spare me the fishers and their lobster-concern. Outside lobster season, they go scallop dragging. DRAGGING. Dragnets are illegal now in the UNESCO WH Tidal sea that borders the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark. For obvious reasons, because they destroy the benthic ecosystem. It’s comparable to harvesting forest for biofuel and taking all the stumpage out as well: you’re left with a dead landscape. Dragnets are responsible for dead sea floor. Lobsters are the hyenas of the sea – there’s plenty of carrion in the Bay of Fundy due a.o. to dragnets. The hypocrisy is beyond words.

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