Nova Scotia ushers in ‘new era’ of tidal energy as protesters warn ‘turbines kill fish’

NS Energy Minister, Michel Samson flips switch to send tidal power onto electricity grid

NS Energy Minister Michel Samson (centre) poses after flipping switch to send tidal power onto the grid. On the left, Tony Wright, Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy and Nancy Tower, Emera Inc. On the right, Thierry Kalanquin, OpenHydro

It’s official. Electricity is now flowing onto Nova Scotia’s power grid from a newly installed 2MW tidal turbine submerged in the Bay of Fundy.

The provincial energy minister, Michel Samson flipped a big electrical switch today near Parrsboro, NS to mark the beginning of what government and tidal industry officials hope will be a new era in marine renewable energy.

“Tidal energy packs huge potential for our province — as an economic driver, an expertise-builder and as a clean energy source for Canada and beyond,” Samson said a few minutes before the switch-flipping ceremony.

He was speaking at the $1.3 million visitor centre operated by the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), the non-profit corporation that oversees the tidal test site in the Minas Passage.

However, a few kilometres away at the edge of the muddy road leading to the centre, a small group of protesters erected signs declaring “Turbines Kill Fish” and “Bay of Fundy is a Food Source not Power Source.”

High tides, high hopes

For government and tidal industry officials, today’s ceremonies marked the hopeful beginning of a new era of “clean, green” energy after years of frustration and delay following the destruction of the first OpenHydro turbine in 2009.

At the time, OpenHydro was an Irish company, but was later acquired by the giant French naval manufacturer, DCNS.

In 2014, the now-French-owned OpenHydro, joined with Emera Inc., parent company of Nova Scotia Power, to form Cape Sharp Tidal Inc.

Poster lists tidal benefits

One of the backdrop posters on display during today’s speeches

The installation of the first Cape Sharp Tidal turbine two weeks ago and the confirmation that the turbine is generating power lent a celebratory tone to today’s ceremonies.

Officials spoke to the assembled TV cameras amid backdrops proclaiming the economic and environmental benefits of tidal turbines.

Nancy Tower, Emera’s corporate development officer said that so far, 300 Nova Scotia companies have been involved in supplying the Cape Sharp tidal project with more than 300 people working on it.

“Would we like to put more turbines in the Bay one day?” Tower asked. “Yes, we would, but not at the expense of things that matter to coastal communities or to the livelihoods that depend on it.”

Tower added that Emera is committed to safeguarding the Bay of Fundy.

“We’re working with leading scientists, universities and companies to balance energy creation with protecting the oceans and marine life,” she said.

Thierry Kalanquin, Chair of OpenHydro, asserted that sensors on the test turbine will demonstrate that it will have “absolutely no environmental impact, zero.”

He also acknowledged that after the testing phase, the company is hoping to deploy many more turbines.

“Of course it will take time, and we will do it in a safe way at the pace of environmental development,” he said. “Not against nature, but with the nature.”

Protesters predict disaster


Mike Dadswell (centre) and supporters speak to reporter during today’s protest

For the small group of protesters shivering in the zero-degree weather a few kilometres down the road, news that the Cape Sharp turbine was now generating electricity was hardly a cause for celebration.

Mike Dadswell, a retired Acadia University biology professor said he’s been studying the disastrous effects of turbines on marine life for decades including the one at Annapolis Royal where it’s not hard to find headless fish.

He said the Cape Sharp turbine is a similar design and will have similar effects.

“If they want to deploy a tidal energy device, they better learn to do it without using 140-year-old technology,” he said adding that the axial-flow-dynamic-lift turbine dates from the 19th century.

“That’s all this is,” he said. “Just like Annapolis, just like in all the dams around here that have destroyed salmon runs, you name it. That’s what the power people use because the technology is tried and true.”

When asked about the need to stop generating power with fossil fuels like coal and switch to green, renewable sources such as tidal, Dadswell responded that tidal energy isn’t really green at all.

“It’s more red as far as I’m concerned, the red of the fish that are going to be chopped up and the porpoises and all the rest of it,” he said.

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10 Responses to Nova Scotia ushers in ‘new era’ of tidal energy as protesters warn ‘turbines kill fish’

  1. Just like the Donald Trump presidency, fraught with fears that each passing day demonstrates are coming true for those Americans that see their democracy riding the rails to hell…….This project likewise suffers from the same issue… that “confidence is low” that any of what the politicians and corporate mega-money spenders say is nothing more than rhetoric to advance their own positions under the smoke-screen of doing good for everybody! Fact is that now we are in the wait-and-see stage both for the US democracy as well as the gigantic megawatter that lays buried beneath the tides at Cape Sharp. I have been there and know the spot! I ask….how long before it either catastrophically fails or will need repairs that are almost sure to require both super-human engineering and super enormous costs? This is all before we get into the ominous impact on the worlds greatest biosphere…the Bay of Fundy! All is TBD while we all wait(and see) As usual big business and big government has had their way (for now) but please standby…..the next chapter of these sagas are yet to be written both in the USA by Donald Trump and in the Bay of Fundy by politics and tides! One part or the other will be trumpeting(excuse the pun!) that “we told you so!” The view from here-Gordon Heffler

  2. This is a great project – the first of its kind, and what you are seeing is history being made. There is a lot of anti-government rhetoric and general anti-technology protest, which is fine, except that this project is only ONE project. The first, and this is the time that it will be studied to determine its impact. Tidal is not big business yet, it is big risk, big potential, but it is still in its baby years. I wish all the best to the developers and those who work with them, because they are, as far as I’m concerned, doing something quite extraordinary, so don’t forget it!

    • Mike Hatt says:

      The month long aquatic die-off must be a huge coincidence then??? Especially when the diversity of species washing up across a 120km stretch of Nova Scotia coastline almost completely rules out a virus or bacterial infection. This is backed up by weeks of testing that have found no detectable pathogens. Furthermore, toxicology reports indicate no abnormal concentrations of toxins.

      The Bay of Fundy has the highest most powerful tides in the world. This fact, in my opinion, rules out the notion of contaminate run-off causing a month long, escalating die-off that has expanded to multiple unrelated aquatic species.
      To me, this process of elimination leaves us with only a few possible causes:

      1. There is something seriously wrong with the North Atlantic current. The warm to cold water convection current is being interrupted causing pockets of desalinated waters to form along with equal areas of highly salinated waters. This would wreak havoc on aquatic species, but (without being a marine biologist) I suspect this would also be easily identifiable as a cause of death through tissue analysis that has already been conducted.

      2. A dead-zone is forming, either temporary or permanent… Dead-zones are cropping up all over the worlds oceans, with oxygen content so low most aquatic species can’t survive. I find this concept suspect because of the high tidal activity in the region replenishing the oxygen content continuously. The real wild card for this theory, and the first one is the possibility of fresh water run off from beneath the permafrost on Greenland. This is hard to measure, but the amount of fresh water influx to the ocean would have to be extreme to account for a destabilising effect on the ocean currents. Although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility of a perfect storm scenario with these theories, whereby a localized body of water has undergone an ecological change, and the body of water is located along a migratory path. It is migratory season for many aquatic species after all.

      3. To expand on the last point; it is migratory season and tidal turbines are always placed at bottle neck points to maximize power generation. Now, I can’t find the technical specs on actual operation of this thing, nor do I wish to brush up on my calculus to determine the forces involved myself (I have a background in electrical engineering alternative energy), but I can tell you with absolute certainty that a five-storey structure, with 10 near two-storey blades that, in conjunction, spin at over 30km/hr under the influence of the strongest tides in the world will generate a massive amount of force. I doubt even juvenile whales are strong enough to escape the current being pulled through this turbine. Also the claim of no fish deaths is a bold- faced lie. Some turbines in use around the world actually have a braking system for when aquatic species are in the area. Furthermore, I’ve seen the pictures of decapitated fish. This has been known since 85.

      Now I’m not saying this is the cause, but it’s also an unlikely coincidence that the die-off started mere weeks after the turbine was lowered into the water, during migratory season no less.

      My main point is that this antiqued technology is no more environmentally friendly than hydroelectric dams. The future lies in massive solar arrays across the world’s unused deserts. If we can ever get through the red tape and stall tactics of the elite, big oil and banks who are terrified of losing their control mechanisms over society, then we will have solved our energy problem in a safe sustainable way that may actually promote vegetation growth by reducing the amount of direct sunlight hitting the desert floor.

      I find it absolutely astounding that mankind has taken the computer, and in a few short decades everybody has a new i-phone every year, a robot dog talks to my kid, and I can get a cell signal in the middle of the woods. But some technology that predates the computer never seems to advance… Like a 120-year-old turbine technology, coal fired power plants, and the internal combustion engine. Glad we have our priorities straight 👍👍

      • I wish to state up-front that I totally agree with Mike Hatts’s comments completely. This pioneering white elephant project should never had been allowed in this most unique spot on the planet! Now here we are with dead fish of every species just “weeks” after this monster started to run! Government departments cannot find a cause when it is staring all of us in the face….the turbine is obvious as a choice! (Unless it is radiation from Point Lepreau) That said, there is another dimension to this….namely that nobody has bothered to predict or verify the existence and immensity of the sonic vibrations emitted into the Bay by this turbine. (Sound), yes many marine species are either dependent on subsonic, sonic, or ultrasonic vibration to communicate, live and thrive and indeed survive. Here we have this bloody sea monster turning and sending these waves out into the Bay and make no mistake, sonics travel extreme distances in water and so can wreak problems far removed from the source. Somebody better get onto this and the view from this platform is that this whole Cape Sharp debacle should be put on a hold until the cause of these dead sea creatures is categorically discovered….put the project on hold and the fish kill will go away as I see it! And as many have stated over the eons of time, “don’t mess with Mother Nature”!

  3. Alan Holman says:

    I thought you might have pointed out that there is quite a difference in the turbine recently installed in Bay of Fundy and the one at Annapolis Royal which basically is part of a dam, not free standing like the one at Cape Sharp. The migrating fish will be able to avoid the turbine in the bay whereas the fish in the Annapolis River have no option but to swim through the turbine. I have no desire to see the fishery resource harmed in anyway, but to assume the worst before there’s been any experience or evidence is not prudent. Let’s make decisions based on factual evidence applicable to the technology and the location involved.

    • brucewark says:

      Thanks for your comment. You’re right of course that there’s a difference between the barrage set up at Annapolis Royal and the free standing turbine which, as the proponents point out, spans a cross section of only 0.1% of the Minas Passage. It may be that fish and marine mammals can avoid such a relatively insignificant machine even in the turbid, fast-flowing and noisy waters of the Passage.

      But as my story shows, the proponents are talking about adding enough turbines to the tidal test site to make it commercially viable. In Nov. 2014, after they formed Cape Sharp Tidal Inc., OpenHydro and Emera said their ultimate goal was to develop a commercial tidal array of up to 300MW in the Bay of Fundy.

      Those plans became clearer in July 2015 when they announced they would seek regulatory approval for turbines to produce 12 more megawatts at the FORCE site in 2017. That would mean six more 1,000 tonne turbines in addition to the two that have already been approved. (The company would need to find an additional site in the Bay of Fundy for its later plans to produce 50MW in 2019 and up to 300MW in 2020.)

      In the meantime, four other consortia are planning to test various types of turbines at the FORCE site in the next few years. So, the Minas Passage is likely to become a lot more congested with whirling blades than it is today. Hard to blame the fishermen for feeling anxious once those blades are spinning and the power is flowing along with the rivers of money that governments and private investors are contributing. It would be hard to shut it all down if someone came forward with some inconvenient, headless fish.

      To my knowledge, no one disputes the damage to marine life caused by the Annapolis Royal turbine, yet the authorities have never contemplated shutting it down.

      In short Alan, we’re not talking about one or two insignificant tidal turbines, but potentially hundreds converting the Bay of Fundy into a major industrial power site. Are the Fundy fishers wrong to worry about that?

      I’d say they aren’t.

  4. Evan Vigneau says:

    I just wonder if all of these dead fish washing up on the shores around the Bay of Fundy have anything to do do with the turbines, as if I didn’t already know the answer to that. You wonder if this many dead fish are washing up with just a few turbines just imagine when they ramp it up, and if the profit is there, you know they will. I just hope that there are some animals left for our children to see and in joy.

  5. Ringo says:

    Late to the party, but the turbine speed is 3 RPM. Crunching the numbers the “tip speed” is a little over 5.5 MPH. That’s crawling along pretty slow. If it’s hurting or killing fish there has to be another explanation.

    • Percy Best says:

      Ringo — FORCE’s website says that the rotating speed of these Open Hydro monsters is at 30 RPM and not the 3 RPM as you have noted. So if you ‘recrunch’ the numbers you will find that the ‘outer’ edge of the rotating blades is MUCH faster than you have shown.

  6. Gordon Heffler says:

    OK lets do that math then…IF Mr Ringo calculated 5.5 miles per hour based on the 3 RPM speed is used as a starting point and we now have a corrected speed of 30 RPM then that is 10 times the first calculation which now converts to 10 X 5.5 mph = 55.5 mph at the outer edge of the blade….so lets put that in terms that we can appreciate. For each 1 mile per hour that an object moves it covers 1.466 feet…so that otter blade end is traveling 81.4 Feet Per Second. No fish can swim that fast and thus what you have is a big skill saw! To top off the calculation that otter part of the blade rotates (travels) just under a mile through the water in one minute!! Anything that goes thru that blade will be sliced and diced! Gordon Heffler

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