Troubled financial waters ahead for Bay of Fundy tidal test project?

Irving-owned tugs hold barge carrying turbine in place during deployment Sunday. Photo courtesy Richard Stern.

Just days after the successful deployment of its latest OpenHydro turbine in the Minas Passage, Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. could be facing an uncertain future.

Two Irish newspapers, the Irish Times and the Irish Examiner are reporting that its French parent company, Naval Energies, is no longer willing to support the money-hemorrhaging OpenHydro and has applied to an Irish court to wind up the company.

Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. is a joint venture between OpenHydro Technology Canada Ltd. and Emera, parent company of Nova Scotia Power.

In a statement issued yesterday, Emera gave little indication of what might happen next.

“We understand that a petition has been filed in Ireland for creditor protection,” the Emera statement said. “We are taking the time to understand what this means for the Cape Sharp Tidal project and we are working to get a better understanding of next steps.”

According to the Irish papers, the High Court in Dublin appointed provisional liquidators yesterday after hearing that OpenHydro is “seriously insolvent” with debts of approximately 280 million Euros (about $426 million in Canadian dollars).

Although the future looks murky for the Cape Sharp Tidal project in the Minas Passage, it’s hard to believe that it won’t somehow continue now that another turbine is finally in the water and connected to Nova Scotia’s power grid.

Last month, parent company Naval Energies opened an OpenHydro turbine assembly plant in Cherbourg, France announcing plans to produce turbines for Canada and Japan.

However, to add to the confusion and uncertainty, Naval Energies announced today that it has decided to cease all investments in tidal turbines and focus on other renewable energy technologies instead.

“The fact remains that the market for tidal-turbine energy is closing,” the company news release says. “The French Environment and Energy Management Agency (ADEME), as part of a public debate on the Multi-annual Energy Plan for France, only foresees 100 to 150 MW to be installed between now and 2028, i.e. 50 turbines of 2 MW each over ten years.”

The release goes on to suggest that tidal development is at a virtual standstill in the United Kingdom and that tidal can’t compete with the more mature technology of offshore wind.

“In Canada, there is also great sensitivity to the cost of the technology,” the release adds.

All in all, it’s far from clear where the money will come from to continue supporting the Cape Sharp Tidal test project in the Minas Passage.

Chronology of events

  • OpenHydro founded in 2005 as an Irish startup company after acquiring the rights to the open-centre turbine technology in 2004.
  • Nov. 2009: Nova Scotia Power and and its Irish partner OpenHydro deploy North America’s first underwater tidal turbine in the Minas Passage. The public does not learn until June 2010 that the turbine soon suffered extensive damage.
  • Dec. 2010: Turbine finally recovered. All 12 of the turbine rotor blades had been destroyed by the tides within the first 20 days of deployment.
  • Jan. 2013: The French naval group of companies, DCNS, variously known as Naval Group and Naval Energies, acquires a majority stake in OpenHydro. The French government holds more than a 60 percent stake in the Naval Group which manufactures advanced military equipment and is also involved in the development of electricity systems including Marine Renewable Energy.
  • Nov. 2014: OpenHydro and Emera announce a new joint venture called Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. with plans to deploy a 4MW array of turbines in the Minas Passage in 2015. The companies say their ultimate goal is to develop up to a 300MW commercial tidal array capable of delivering clean, renewable energy to more than 75,000 customers.
  • Nov. 2016: Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. successfully deploys a 2MW OpenHydro turbine, the first of two that had been assembled in Pictou, N.S.
  • June 2017: Cape Sharp finally retrieves its turbine for testing and repair after it generated little electricity.
  • July 2018: Deployment of second OpenHydro turbine.
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4 Responses to Troubled financial waters ahead for Bay of Fundy tidal test project?

  1. Gordon Heffler says:

    Get this crap out of our Bay and take your quote unquote jobs and playground equipment and go the xxxx home! Emera once again as in recent times should be backing out of this ill founded big boy toys project…stick to wind power if you want to play….for me…”I don’t need a weatherman to know which way the winds blow”! – Gordon Heffler

  2. Rima Azar says:

    This could perhaps explain the rush of the company to act before the end of the lobster season?

    Thanks to the New Wark Times for keeping citizens informed (i.e., links to the Irish newspapers).

    How ironic that in Canada we seem to learn the details from foreign media (e.g., this story or the recent tragic attack in Toronto, etc.).

  3. Gordon Heffler says:

    Well what a fine mess this turns out to be (at least at this point). My guess is that the good ole Nova Scotia taxpayer will ultimately be on the hook for all this just like they were at the “heavy water” endeavor decades ago when it went belly up!. After the lawyers and courts get done, which will likely take years…, then who do you think is going to pay the creditors even so far, for all the overrun expenses that this monster has been allowed to run up? That’s not even to mention the astronomical amounts already owed to the contractors, shipyards (Saint John) and barges and tow boats whose work has been done so far…and , oh by the way, who will pay to get this “thing” gone from our waters…? You and I, that’s who! (the view of all this has been clear here to me since the start of this) – Gordon Heffler – Halifax

  4. Mary McPhee says:

    Bruce, good article, thanks for continuing to keep folks updated. May I suggest you look further into the local/regional small businesses (including vessel operators, accommodations, food services) in the area which are owed significant amounts following this most recent development? Mary McPhee

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