Bad day at Black Rock: Tidal turbine breaks down; FORCE monitoring gear washes ashore

Fisherman Darren Porter on his boat with yellow FORCE monitoring gear on the beach behind him

A day after Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. announced that its underwater turbine has broken down and its blades are no longer turning, fisherman Darren Porter spotted a yellow object at the water’s edge near the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), which oversees the Black Rock tidal test site in the Minas Passage.

“My daughter dragged it up the beach so it wouldn’t float away,” Porter said. “God knows where it would have been tonight.”

Porter reported his discovery to FORCE, the Nova Scotia Department of Energy, the federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans and various news outlets including this one.

A few hours later, Lindsay Bennett, business operations manager at FORCE, confirmed Porter’s suspicion that the object was a sea pod which houses a cluster of environmental monitoring instruments.

“Darren Porter located and recovered a piece of marine mammal monitoring equipment that is used as part of FORCE’s regular site-level environmental effects monitoring program,” Bennett wrote in an e-mail, adding that it was one of five “instrument packages” that were recently deployed.

“All monitoring instruments on the recovered package appear to be in working order,” Bennett wrote, “however, we’ll assess for and perform any required maintenance and redeploy as soon as possible.”

Her e-mail ended on a reassuring note.

“This happens occasionally with this type of equipment, especially in a high flow environment like the Minas Passage.”

Porter’s scorn

During a telephone interview, Porter, a long-time critic of FORCE and spokesman for the fisherman’s group Fundy United Federation, reacted scornfully to Bennett’s message.

“Nothing to see here, it’s no big deal,” he said of her reassurances. “FORCE is literally a farce,” Porter added. “You can’t even make this up.”

He said that if the sea pod had floated away with the tides, FORCE wouldn’t have known it was gone until the time came for its retrieval weeks or months from now.

Turbine broken

Porter’s discovery of the monitoring gear came the day after Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. said a team of technical experts from OpenHydro headquarters in Ireland discovered the submerged turbine has broken down and its blades are no longer turning.

“The turbine operated as expected immediately after deployment in July,” the Cape Sharp statement said. “They (the team of experts) believe an internal component failure in the generator caused sufficient damage to prevent the rotor from turning.”

The company statement goes on to say the team will analyze information from sensors on the turbine to determine whether it “could be functional.”

In the meantime, Cape Sharp says environmental monitoring devices on the turbine are now working.

Government regulators require the company to monitor the turbine’s effects on fish and other sea creatures, but the sensors that are supposed to do that were disconnected shortly after deployment when turbine maker OpenHydro ran out of money and lost the financial support of its French parent company.

Since August, OpenHydro has been moving towards bankruptcy with another court hearing scheduled for next month in Dublin. To read earlier coverage of the financial aspects of the story, click here.

Lobster study

One of Porter’s lobster-filled traps from the Minas Passage

Meantime, Darren Porter noticed FORCE’s yellow sea pod when he was on his boat conducting a lobster survey that started last year in connection with Big Moon Canada’s plans to generate tidal power on the north side of the Blomidon Peninsula near Cape Split. To read earlier coverage of the Big Moon project, click here.

Porter says the study is aimed at understanding the presence, abundance and movements of lobster in parts of the Minas Basin that could be affected by Big Moon. It involves fitting some lobsters with tiny transmitters that help track their movements and others with tags containing information that can be reported when the lobsters are caught.

Porter also sets traps to catch lobsters in order to count them and record biological information such as their sex and whether their shells are hard or soft.

He says he’s noticed that traps set in the Minas Passage produce large numbers of lobsters, sometimes as many as 35 in a single trap.

“There’s no doubt why fishermen are upset about tidal turbines in the Minas Passage,” Porter says. “It’s the most lucrative piece of lobster fishing ground in the province,” he adds, pointing out that lobsters are Nova Scotia’s largest and most valuable export.

“Lobsters are our true renewable resource,” he says.

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5 Responses to Bad day at Black Rock: Tidal turbine breaks down; FORCE monitoring gear washes ashore

  1. Percy Best says:

    Wow, can’t wait for the next chapter in this comedy of errors. Seriously though, the lack of accountability is quite overwhelming. I’m certainly wondering if ‘BIG MOON’ with their revolutionary clothes line approach will follow in the Cape Sharp Tidal ‘footsteps’ or if they too will be ‘hung out to dry’. Guess we will all have to stay tuned to The New Wark Times to find out.

  2. Gordon Heffler says:

    Oh My God!!!! Will this boondoggle ever ever end….? FIRST to the force which obviously is NOT with any of us and never was…..we were unable to stop this “pie in the sky” or should I say Walt Disney inspired dream…or is it or has it become a nightmare…yes it has! These people were not only bankrupt in their bank account but bankrupt in their ability to conduct this disaster of a turbine project from start to finish! But Hey!…they managed to convince everyone in high places outside of the wise-to-it all public, that they were going to save us all by making commercial electricity from a useless turbnine that cost tens of millions of dollars and could not even operate for two months!!! Man we are still picking up the pieces and the costs to the NS taxpayer is yet to become evident! Without doubt this is not the “force” but as said above…”the Farce”. Now on to the so called Big Moon project from last April. For that enlightened project again will be sold as cure for everything except cancer. Ah..who is this Jamie MacNeil? Take a look at his is online for anyone to see. Guess what! He does not have an engineering degree! But is country manager of this now project that I will term Bad Moon rising. But if you read his comments it clearly illustrates that he has spent much time in governmental service positions in Ottawa and Nova Scotia and is an accomplished speaker,communicator and consultant! So once again the selling of this science fiction style project is underway and again right here in our waters. Hey folks I wouldn’t start heaving up the power lines from Scotts Bay to Canning just yet..I think the 15 amp service there will be more than adequate to handle the couple of electrons that might come ashore from this Moon project. I pay 15 cents a kilowatt hour for my electricity and they might get an electron or two to flow for more than twice that price…that’ll give the dreamers at NSPC another reason to tell us that they are raising power rates. Look these kinds of pie in the sky projects spending heaven knows how much of whose money should become obvious to most folks for what they are…maybe toys for big boys. This Big Moon project already should maybe be better aimed as it is named…at the moon…oh I almost forgot we already have that one covered down in Cape Breton where they are banking on becoming a rocket launch capital of who knows what…but their rocket scientists, I’m sure are hard at work on that one! As they said above this stuff is so far out there that you can’t even make it up anymore! -Gordon Heffler-the view from here…

  3. Jamie Ross P.Eng. says:

    Both the floating BlackRock approach and Big Moon involves lots of cables all over the place.. I am skeptical of this as a long term approach as entanglement and loose moorings are pretty much guaranteed.. but I’ll wait to see how the trials work out.

  4. Edward Vidal says:

    “Waste not, Want not” Generation of power utilizing the tides as a power source, this has proven to be very distructive to marine life. The turbine is not compatiable as presently designed. We need to consider Conservation . Why produce more power and encourage wasteful demand?
    The sea is a renewable resource, left alone and protected it will continue to serve us all.

  5. Rima Azar says:

    I would like to echo Mr. Darren Porter’s comment that “Lobsters are Nova Scotia’s largest and most valuable export”. Indeed, I even bumped into one in the Middle East at a supermarket in Beirut, Lebanon whilst visiting my parents :). It was proudly advertised as *Canadian Lobster here!* (needless to say that I felt proud too).

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