Final preparations underway for tricky Fundy tidal turbine deployment

Scotia Tide barge HFX (carrying the OpenHydro turbine), and Atlantic Hemlock tug in Pleasant Cove, off Cape Sharp. Photo taken by Betty Ann DeWitt on Saturday

Scotia Tide barge (carrying the OpenHydro turbine), and Atlantic Hemlock tug in Pleasant Cove, Saturday off Cape Sharp. Photo by Betty Ann DeWitt

After years of delay, Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. is in the final stages of deploying its 1,000 tonne, five-storey-high turbine into the roiling waters of the Minas Passage, eight kilometres west of Parrsboro, N.S.

Sarah Dawson, who speaks for the company, says the next window of opportunity for deployment will come Monday at low tide which will occur at about 11:44 a.m.

In an earlier e-mail, Dawson wrote that the company decided not to deploy the turbine Sunday morning because more preparatory work had to be done.

“Some of you have asked how many turbines we are deploying,” she added. “We are only deploying one turbine in 2016. The second is still in Saint John.”

If the turbine can’t be deployed tomorrow, there will be other low-tide opportunities this week, Dawson says.

20-minute window

When the first, 440 tonne OpenHydro turbine was deployed on November 12, 2009, engineers and crews had only a 20-minute window to work with.

An eye-witness account in the Halifax Chronicle-Herald by business reporter Judy Myrden said that government representatives, business executives and academic researchers accompanied the OpenHydro turbine out to sea under sunny skies.

“After spending hours getting all the equipment to the correct location, engineers and crews had only a 20-minute window when the tide was low enough to lower the turbine and base into the water from a catamaran-shaped barge,” Myrden wrote.

Crews began the operation at 1:40 p.m. and about eight minutes later, the turbine was sitting on the seabed.

Unfortunately, OpenHydro engineers lost contact with sensors on the turbine within seven days. They learned months later that the machine had not withstood the brutal tides and its blades had been wrecked within 20 days of deployment.

Power connection

That first turbine with its base, less than half the weight of the current one, was not hooked up to the Nova Scotia Power grid.

But this time, crews will be working to connect the 2MW turbine to undersea power cables that were laid in 2014 by FORCE, the non-profit corporation that manages the tidal test site, and by Cape Sharp itself in 2015.

Environment Canada predicts sunny weather Monday, similar to the conditions seven years ago.

Fishermen opposed

In 2009, lobster fisherman Mark Taylor told Judy Myrden, “It’s hard to believe something that big, almost 20 metres wide, isn’t going to have some negative impact.”

He added, however, that it would be good to get one turbine in the water to find out.

“We’re just hoping it doesn’t harm the fishery in the area,” he said.

“If we get shut out by the turbines because they say they want to put in 300 of them, we will feel it,” he said.

Now, the Bay of Fundy Fisherman’s Association says the Cape Sharp turbine should not be deployed without more baseline scientific studies first. Last month the fishermen failed to persuade a judge to halt turbine installation, at least temporarily.

The Fisherman’s Association is scheduled to appear in Nova Scotia Supreme Court in February to challenge the provincial environment minister’s decision to issue permits allowing Cape Sharp to put two turbines in the water.

Giant turbine on barge near Cape Sharp today. Photo by Sandy Graham

Turbine on barge near Cape Sharp today. Photo by Sandy Graham

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