Cape Sharp Tidal announces delay in deploying another Fundy turbine

Cape Sharp’s 300 tonne turbine sits on a 700 tonne base with the Turbine Control Centre attached to it

Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. has announced it won’t be deploying another turbine in the Minas Passage, near Parrsboro, N.S., until sometime next year “when the weather is calmer and more predictable.”

A news release issued yesterday said the company is planning its next deployment sometime before next summer.

“The next Cape Sharp tidal turbine that will be deployed is the second or ‘dry’ turbine, which hasn’t yet been in the water,” the company adds.

Work to improve efficiency and reliability

Cape Sharp deployed its first OpenHydro turbine at its test site in the Minas Passage a little less than a year ago on November 7, 2016.

Although the massive device generated some electricity for a few months, it was disconnected from the Nova Scotia Power grid on April 21, 2017 for retrieval, onshore upgrades to its Turbine Control Centre and other repairs.

However, it took Cape Sharp nearly two months to raise the turbine because of a mooring line tangled around its subsea base.

Both Cape Sharp turbines are at Saint John Harbour and no date has been set for re-deployment of the first one.

The company says work is underway to improve the “efficiency and reliability” of the second turbine.

Stacey Pineau, who speaks for the company, refused in an e-mail to specify what the work entails.

“The specific improvements we make are part of our confidential intellectual property,” she writes.

Faulty monitoring devices

Pineau did say, however, that devices to monitor the presence of fish and marine mammals within 100 metres of the turbine are being repaired or replaced.

Cape Sharp’s latest report on its environmental effects monitoring program, released on October 18th, reveals there were many problems with these devices in the five months before the turbine’s data cables were disconnected in preparation for retrieval:

  • one of four hydrophones (underwater microphones) operated only intermittently, while another failed shortly after deployment
  • acoustic devices called imaging sonars were pointed at the sea floor instead of capturing fish and marine mammal movements in the mid-water column; electrical interference caused interruptions in data transmission to shore-based computers interfering with analysis of the data
  • a video camera mounted on the turbine was damaged shortly after deployment and failed to record any footage

In the period between April 21, when the turbine cables were disconnected and June 15, when the turbine was successfully retrieved, there was no underwater monitoring at the turbine site for the presence of marine life.

Problems being fixed

Cape Sharp spokeswoman Stacey Pineau says the various problems with the monitoring devices are being fixed as a result of all that the company has learned from its first deployment.

But Darren Porter, a weir fisherman who speaks for the group Fundy United, questions why the turbine was allowed to operate in the Minas Passage for seven months when so many of its monitoring devices weren’t working properly.

Porter also points to this week’s report from Nova Scotia’s Auditor General which concluded that the provincial government is failing to monitor many environmentally sensitive projects.

Although the auditor’s report did not deal specifically with the development of Fundy tidal power, Porter says it points to the government’s general attitude toward such projects.

“The government wants it (tidal power) even more than the companies do,” Porter says.

“The politicians want it for jobs.”

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10 Responses to Cape Sharp Tidal announces delay in deploying another Fundy turbine

  1. Percy Best says:

    Perhaps a much simpler design would be the answer.

    This unit, with it’s triangular base and its two million pound total weight and a visually ‘top heavy,’ but comparatively small footprint, looks to me like a disaster waiting to happen in such a turbulent environment. Looks like the engineers really got carried away on this one. An elongated double-headed shroudless ‘screw type’ in-stream turbine would surely be kinder to nature especially if designed with very little impact surface as compared with the shearing internal blades of this (possible fish/mammal chopping) Cape Sharp unit.

    I also think that any unit, anchor line tied down or not, would be much more stable sitting on a levelled rectangular four-footed base especially when there is alternating pressure being forced upon it approximately four times each day. This ‘pinch point’ of the tidal Minas Basin certainly does not have a consistent ‘one way’ river environment in which turbines are relatively simple to stabilize.

  2. Jamie Ross says:

    Its not the overall design thats a problem, the current design is very stable (OH engineers are not idiots ). The problem is that going right into full-up conditions where you can’t make on-site changes or inspections using divers or ROV’s is challenging. A lot of external environmental sensors need to be checked out in an operational environment before final deployment. An intial run-in period in Saint John or Digby would allow more assessment before deploying into Minas Passage. Of course, a high staff turn-over at OH means lessons learned are typically lost by the time the next generation are deployed which is a problem they haven’t resolved. Emera also drives all interactions with the community so OH people are very constrained on what they can do. Just my humble opinion.

    • Percy Best says:

      Jamie, regardless of the frequency of staff turnover, one would think that all lessons learned would be ‘written down’ and manuals and guidelines would continually be modified to incorporate the latest knowledge in this ‘up to the minute breaking news’ world of today. A wee bit like Wikipedia.

      This is a potentially a very massive project and these are, of course, only prototypes, but one would think that more thorough initial engineering and testing would produce better results than what we have been seeing up until now. A huge amount of money has been expended so far and there is a whole world out there with digital information to freely gather from.

      I still believe that they are on the wrong track as far as a basic design is concerned and that is MY humble opinion. lol

      • Jamie Ross says:

        As a rule of thumb, 80% of company operational and technical knowledge is held by the people and 20% by the documentation, so high turn over leads to mistakes. While the project is massive, OpenHydro is not and hasn’t fully made the transition from startup to production engineering company (IMHO). I suspect the Naval Group Energie will correct this situation as they do have the experience on how to manage big projects.

        The archimedes screw approach is not a bad one and there was a Canadian developer that was working that angle but I don’t think he ever received enough funding to pursue it. Canada has a terrible track record in support its own technology, preferring to purchase from other companies and just providing the raw materials. It’s not so much prime-mover design (blades etc) .. getting all the stuff that needs maintenance out of the water is critical in getting costs down. Black Rock is going to float the whole frame but that’s never been done in strong tidal waters so remains to be proven. It’s more likely Atlantis Resources will arrive at Cape Sharp with their more conventional design as they seem to be having more success in the water. None of the cases I have seen have any indication of fish being chopped up btw.. More fish are chopped up and killed by the fishing industry so it’s really important to look at the whole Bay ecology. I keep saying getting Emera to dismantle Annapolis Royal would be a really positive impact as we know barrage systems DO chop up fish.

  3. Gordon Heffler - Halifax says:

    Let the chaos continue on this pipe dream monolith of a gargantuan misguided and mismanaged project that at this moment in time is only credited for sure for chopping up money faster than the Nova Scotia Government can gather it from all of us. While it appears that these power folks are severely lacking in good sound engineering design and monitoring techniques it also appears that their mission is to experiment infinity (and beyond) at the expense of all of us who either directly or indirectly are paying for this ridiculousness. Parrsboro area would be better suited to gain fame by launching a mission to Mars rather than this white elephant! At least then we can draw on the knowledge of rocket scientists rather than the tests of experimental engineers on this thing!
    -Gordon Heffler

    • Jamie Ross says:

      Actually Gordon, I *am* a rocket scientist with 30 years experience in spacecraft and rocket development and I led the power control systems development for the turbine that went into the water AND it did produce almost the full 2MW (I don’t work there presently so can’t speak to current efforts). The project cost NS taxpayers hardly anything as most of the funding was provided by French and Irish investors.. and about $30M-$40M was spent in Nova Scotia so your comments aren’t really valid . The design is pretty sound..the difficulty of working in 5 m/s current flows where you can’t send in divers or ROV’s for maintenance shouldn’t be understated. The monitoring equipment array is not bad and while I would add Didson sonar video, its a matter of tweaking the design. Naval Group Energie just invested a lot of money in a state of the art facility in Cherbough France to build turbines so I expect each generation to improve. There are valid criticisms of the project but way too many uninformed comments by people who probably drive gas guzzling F350’s.. if you think you have a better approach, then build it and show us.

      • cynthiajoanmorrison says:


      • Gordon Heffler - Halifax says:

        Sorry I can not be part of the solution here as I admit to being not qualified to suggest an alternative other than to abandon this thing as “economically not viable” which if you go by the amount of electricity that it might ever produce(let alone the few watts that it did so far produce) it will not make us all have the lowest power rates in Canada since on the bigger picture it is a drop in a very large kilowatt hour basket! So it is a plaything for the rich from my viewpoint…and wherever the money is coming from it is still being shredded by this project which I compare to the Cape Breton heavy water endeavor which I lived through as well as such pies in the skies as the Come By Chance oil refinery…..we at this end of the country are still chasing the rainbow as we have done in the past but what we find at the end of it is usually a pot but not of gold!

  4. Fred Harrison says:

    Jamie Ross …..I always claim that a simple solution is usually the best …Therefore, is the present approach actually taking advantage of the unique natural tide system here?….Wouldn’t a walk-before-run approach make sense? Such as placing turbines closer to shoreline at the point where they are exposed during low tide ….Maintenance would be easily facilitated and weir-like netting could be erected to protect fish …

    • Jamie Ross says:

      Its a bit like a wiind turbine… you could put one on the ground but its not going to spin. You need area to generate power.. wind even more than tide. It takes about 1 m/s to start a tidal turbine and you have to have enough flow to generate enough power to make it economical… and you want to stay away from that puts you down in deeper waters. In medieval times, river turbines were very common (going back to 400AD) .. mostly barges but they tended to break away in storms and mooring was an issue. They later hung them from bridges successfully and in fact the Dutch have done something similar with tidal turbines. We looked at bridges up in Cape Breton but the tidal flows are just too low. New Energy, a Canadian company, has been working with vertical axis turbines but in rivers. If you want serious energy, you need 4-5 m/s and that puts you in places like Mina Passage, or down in DIgby Gut, Grand Passage and Petite Passage. I have thought that Digby Gut is probably a better place to start but investors tend to want to go right to what they think will be profitable (so they can not lose money too long).. Atlantis Resources has been a bit slower to get started but they seem be more successful.

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