Too early to tell about effects of tidal turbine, but no evidence of any yet, FORCE says

FORCE general manager Tony Wright at Parrsboro meeting

The general manager of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) says nearly five months after deployment of a Cape Sharp tidal turbine, there has been no evidence of effects on fish, marine mammals or seabirds.

“But it’s too early to tell yet,” Tony Wright adds. “The data that we’re collecting is going to take a long time to analyze…We’re trying to show potential impacts on how a population behaves so that takes time to really understand if we’re seeing any changes at all.”

Wright was speaking to reporters on Thursday during a community meeting at the Parrsboro legion where about 60 people showed up to hear an update on the FORCE tidal energy demonstration site in the Minas Passage about 11 kilometres west of the town.

Wright said that a wide-range of information is being gathered on fish density, the presence of marine mammals and noise generated by the turbine. The data are being sent for analysis to the University of Maine and then compiled into quarterly reports submitted to the Nova Scotia Department of the Environment.

He said the first such report was due on March 31 and should be available on the FORCE website in about two weeks.

No collisions anywhere

Anne-Marie Belliveau

Earlier, Anne-Marie Belliveau, director of operations at FORCE, told the Parrsboro meeting that there have been no collisions observed so far between tidal turbines and fish or marine mammals anywhere in the world.

Belliveau referred to a 2016 international scientific report on marine renewable energy co-ordinated by the U.S. Department of Energy. The report examines the effects of single turbines or small arrays of them.

A one-page summary on collision risk states: “No instances of marine mammals, fish, diving seabirds, or other marine animals colliding with an operational tidal turbine have been observed to date.”

However, the report goes on to say that instruments capable of observing such collisions are still under development and few have been deployed or tested around an operating turbine.

“Laboratory simulations have shown that fish may pass through turbines but very few are likely to be harmed,” the summary adds.

Disagrees with fishermen

For his part, Tony Wright points to 93 scientific studies conducted so far saying he disagrees with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association that more baseline information should have been gathered before the first turbine went into the water. (The fishermen are awaiting a decision from the Nova Scotia Supreme Court on whether the provincial environment minister acted within her rights when she approved proposed environmental monitoring plans allowing for deployment of two Cape Sharp tidal turbines.)

Wright says the FORCE monitoring program is focused on studying the potential impact of the first turbine.

“It’s our hope that the monitoring program that was implemented on fish distribution, lobster, seabirds, mammals is really going to help us identify further areas of study,” he says. “It’s our view…that the baseline data collection can continue.”

Listening for sea creatures

Tyler Boucher

FORCE ocean technologist Tyler Boucher told the Parrsboro meeting about the various ways he’s helping collect information from the turbulent waters of the Minas Passage.

He said that one involves submerging instruments called C-PODS that sit on the ocean floor for up to four months listening for marine mammals such as harbour porpoises.

Another involves measuring the presence of fish using boat-mounted echosounders and a third method uses drifting hydrophones to measure noise levels from the tidal turbine.

And, starting this spring, he said, FORCE will deploy multiple traps in two concentric rings to monitor the ability to catch lobsters.

Boucher, who studied marine biology at Dalhousie University before undergoing training in oceans technology at the Nova Scotia Community College in Dartmouth, is enthusiastic about his first job.

“I would definitely say it’s an exciting job,” he says. “I got really lucky and was able to do my internship here,” he adds.  “It’s actually been a really great experience.”

Turbine blades still turning

Meantime, in an e-mail update to Warktimes, Sarah Dawson, who speaks for Cape Sharp Tidal Inc., said the company’s first demonstration turbine is still generating electricity at the FORCE site.

“Operation teams have been testing the turbine, making adjustments to the software and gradually increasing production over time while testing the technology during different tidal cycles,” her e-mail adds.

It also says that although the company doesn’t have a firm timeline yet, it aims to deploy its second turbine sometime in 2017.

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4 Responses to Too early to tell about effects of tidal turbine, but no evidence of any yet, FORCE says

  1. marke says:

    Thanks for the overview on the meeting, Bruce. It is good that you report on this development from your location of Sackville, NB, as there is almost no reporting going on in Nova Scotia about this development.

    The links to the Annex IV 2016 State of the Science Report were also appreciated. I find it quite curious that the same language “no collisions have been observed” comes from multiple sources, especially considering the wording of the statement (were they not observed because they weren’t looking?). Such a declarative statement being followed by “instruments capable of observing such collisions are still under development and few have been deployed or tested around an operating turbine,” certainly doesn’t add any confidence to their claim. Add to that the statements from Cape Sharp Tidal Ventures a few days after deployment of their turbine (saying that no fish have been killed and that proves the reliability of their technology) and I can only think that someone is playing Headz Games with us.

    I wish that the people at FORCE would provide such information meetings in other stakeholder communities rather than just the one that might, maybe, if everything works out, benefit economically from this project. Certainly there are a lot of people on the other side of the Bay (in Hants, Kings & Annapolis counties) who are interested but get *very little* information from FORCE or the developers about this project. And when they do, they insist on talking to only a few fishermen at a time.

    As much as I am sure that we need to add more alternatives to our power sources, I question this development — as much due to the evasiveness of the companies & the government as the technology (although there are continually concerns about the impact of these devices on the environment, i.e., marine animals).

  2. Willie Courtney says:

    One only has to look at the fast tracked implementation and deployment of the Cape Sharp tidal devise and the dishonesty of the FORCE process that allowed it to happen, to understand how this premature experiment was doomed to fail. Nova Scotia’s Dept of Energy’s dream to be an industry leader for the technology for tidal power is soon to be seen as a profit driven disaster. The NS government’s credibility as an industry leader, given their total disregard for the marine ecosystem and the significant economy it provides, will be recognised by other governments for years to come.

    • marke says:

      You are right about that, Willie. The shame of the whole matter is that tidal power *does* have potential and *is* a renewable resource — something we need in order to relieve our dependence on fossil fuels.
      If FORCE (read: developers & government) had taken the recommended “cautious and incremental approach” offered in the 2008 Strategic Environmental Report, taking into consideration some of their own rules regarding device placement and consideration of Species-At-Risk issues, I think their success would have been more secured.
      Forcing this process forward without regard for the well-being of the environment or fishing stakeholders undermines their credibility. If they are aiming for their self-declared “Fundy Standard” they need to incorporate better environmental & socio-economic practices into their project.
      Of course we would like to see this be successful, but it has to be successful for everyone, not just power companies.

      • Willie Courtney says:

        Right on Marke. For the record I reread my comment above and noticed my mistake, (devise not device) I believe it was partially Freudian. There are some technologies out there that would appear to be a lot more “fish friendly” and potentially provide jobs for Nova Scotians. Our government needs to stop the insane rush and get to a sensible project done in accordance with as you say the “cautious and incremental approach” they advertised when they first started talking to the Fishers.

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