Emera seeks to abandon its stake in Cape Sharp Tidal Inc.

Emera, parent company of Nova Scotia Power, has announced it’s withdrawing from its partnership in Cape Sharp Tidal Inc., the company that has a test turbine sitting on the bottom of the Minas Passage.

In a statement released today, Emera says it has notified its Irish-based partner OpenHydro of its withdrawal and has also notified liquidator Grant Thornton, the firm that is currently handling OpenHydro’s bankruptcy proceedings.

In July, OpenHydro’s French parent company, Naval Energies, asked an Irish court to appoint a liquidator after calling OpenHydro “seriously insolvent” and pointing to its debts of about $426 million. Naval Energies acted only four days after Cape Sharp deployed the massive turbine at a test site overseen by the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE).

In today’s statement, Emera says Naval Energies’ action left it with no choice but to withdraw from Cape Sharp Tidal in which it holds a 20 per cent stake.

“The surprise application by Naval Energies to Ireland’s High Court on July 26th requesting the liquidation of OpenHydro and Naval Energies’ subsequent statement that it will no longer support or invest in tidal turbines left Emera with no practical choice but to withdraw from Cape Sharp Tidal,” the statement added.

It goes on to say that although Emera did not own or develop the open-centre turbine, it considered OpenHydro’s technology “cutting edge” and believed it was worth investing in a demonstration or test project to prove its viability.

“Without support from the technology developer, OpenHydro, to operate and maintain the technology and the turbine, we do not believe that there is further value in pursuing this project for our business,” Emera’s statement adds.

Responsibility for turbine and local suppliers’ bills

Emera’s statement also suggests that the provisional liquidator Grant Thornton is now responsible for operation of the submerged turbine because it “currently controls the majority interest of OpenHydro Technology in Cape Sharp Tidal…

“Emera has repeatedly reinforced with Grant Thornton the need to continue environmental monitoring and safe operation of the deployed turbine and the importance of meeting all obligations of Cape Sharp Tidal and OpenHydro to local suppliers,” the statement adds.

“It is our understanding that a number of local suppliers have been paid and we will continue to encourage the provisional liquidator to resolve all outstanding items as soon as possible.”

To read the Emera news release, click here.

What about environmental laws?

Meantime, the blades on the 16-metre turbine continue to turn, but the turbine itself has been isolated from the power grid and since its environmental sensors are not working, there’s no way of telling if it’s harming fish or other sea creatures.

A contingency plan requires deployment of a platform equipped with sensors 30 metres from the centre of the turbine within two weeks, but there’s no indication that has been done.

Last week, Nova Scotia’s minister of energy said this situation cannot go on indefinitely, and today an e-mail from his department repeats that message:

“As we have said, this situation cannot be allowed to continue indefinitely. If our expectations are not met, we will consider the appropriate next steps to ensure compliance,” the e-mail says.

Meantime, an e-mail from the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans says:

“DFO continues to communicate with Nova Scotia Energy to gain a better understanding of the liquidation of OpenHydro and the next steps for the project. As Cape Sharp Tidal has not complied with conditions of its Fisheries Act Authorization related to environmental monitoring, DFO is evaluating appropriate actions.”

An e-mail from FORCE, which is supposed to oversee the tidal test site, suggests we get in touch with Cape Sharp or the province for answers to any questions about what’s happening with the turbine.

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