Events of 2016

OpenHydro manager Jeremy Poste gives thumbs up for success

OpenHydro manager Jeremy Poste gives thumbs up for successful deployment of tidal turbine in Nov. 2016


March 2016: The Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) announces a new $500,000 environmental effects monitoring program at the tidal test site it oversees in the Minas Passage. FORCE itself is contributing $250,000 while the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) and the N.S. Dept. of Energy will contribute the other $250,000. The FORCE news release says “the program is designed to determine potential turbine effects on the marine environment with a focus on fish, lobster, marine birds, marine mammals, and acoustic effects.”

March 2016: Minas Basin weir fisherman Darren Porter tells the Halifax Chronicle-Herald that the new environmental effects monitoring program is worthless if it can’t detect and measure the deaths of fish and other marine life at the tidal test site. The newspaper quotes Porter as saying: “Two weeks ago at a public meeting in Truro, well-attended by government officials, FORCE admitted they had no way to monitor the effects that turbines will have on fish mortality at their site in the Minas Passage.”

March 2016: A public meeting in Parrsboro, N.S. hears that Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. plans to deploy the first of two, 16-metre, 1,000 tonne turbines in the Minas Passage in the spring. Matt Lumley, spokesman for the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), which is overseeing the test site near Parrsboro, says that as tidal developers pay off their initial capital investment and prove that their turbine technologies can work in the Bay of Fundy, the cost of generating tidal power should start to fall just as it did with solar power in Ontario. Tidal developers will be paid initial rates of 53 cents per kWh, nearly four times more than N.S. Power customers now pay for home electricity. Lumley acknowledges that eventually rates will have to fall to make tidal power economically viable.

April 2016: The federal department of fisheries and oceans (DFO) releases a report suggesting more studies are needed to assess the effects of tidal turbines on fish, lobster and marine mammals at the FORCE test site in the Minas Passage.

May 2016: The Chronicle-Herald publishes an opinion piece by Colin Sproul, spokesman for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association. Sproul calls the DFO report “a scathing review” of FORCE environmental monitoring plans and suggests that there are potential conflicts of interest among tidal developers, academic researchers and government officials. “There is no clear separation between industry and regulators,” Sproul writes, “nor between developers and science.”  He calls for a halt to tidal energy development and removal of existing equipment such as subsea cables from the Minas Passage until scientific baseline studies can be conducted on the marine environment there.

May 2016: The fishermen’s association hands a lengthy petition to Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil calling for a halt to tidal development in the Minas Passage because it threatens the province’s lucrative fishery. The petition describes the upper Bay of Fundy as an important breeding ground for fish and other marine life including lobsters and predicts that the spinning blades of turbines will be lethal to sea creatures. “The reason for the incredible currents in the Minas Passage is the constriction of the tide flowing into and out of the basin,” the petition says. “This flow is even further restricted by an underwater mountain range which forces the majority of water and thus most marine life to a small space on the north side. It is into this space that FORCE plans to place their turbines, teeming with life in an incredible display of frothing water, leaping porpoises and diving sea birds,” the petition states.

May 2016: Fifty fishermen attend an information session in Annapolis Royal where many express their concerns about the potential effects of tidal turbines on the fishery. In a report on the meeting, the Tri-County Vanguard quotes fisherman Kevin Gidney of Digby Neck: “‘Everybody is scared to death,’ says Gidney. ‘The Minas Basin is the number one spawning ground for the Bay of Fundy. After a lobster lays its eggs on bottom, the larva float around on the surface, drifting around the basin with the tide. Are they going to get beat up in the turbines?'”

May 2016: The Offshore Energy Research Association releases a 37-page report written by Graham Daborn, a retired scientist from Acadia University. It details the many scientific studies that have already been conducted on Bay of Fundy tidal energy and outlines issues that remain to be resolved including how working turbines might affect fish, birds and marine mammals. The report adds: “The effects on fisheries for lobster, herring and other finfish and shellfish are being examined, and in some cases this requires selection and further development of suitable monitoring technologies that can withstand the difficult environmental conditions under which tidal energy could be generated.” The report also mentions the economic benefits of tidal power: “An assessment of the value of early involvement in tidal stream development suggests that over the next decades more than $1.7 billion could be added to the provincial GDP, with creation of some 22,000 full time positions and $815 million in labour income.”

June 2016: The Halifax Chronicle-Herald publishes an opinion piece by Tony Wright, general manager of the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE). Wright argues that the first test turbines need to be deployed to determine if they are safe and affordable. He writes: “After 10 years of research and more than 70 studies…an advanced sensor monitoring platform program and $15 million of investment, there are still hundreds of questions to answer. We could spend hundreds of millions of dollars more and still not have all the baseline data that could be collected.” He adds that both DFO and FORCE agree that the deployment of a test turbine “provides the most important opportunity to monitor any interactions with marine life.”

June 2016: In light of the DFO report in April, Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller delays issuing a permit for installation of the first Cape Sharp turbine pending a review of the proposed environmental monitoring plans from FORCE and the company. Meantime, Cape Sharp announces it will delay deployment while it consults with fishermen’s groups.

June 2016: Fishermen react angrily after the provincial environment minister approves environmental monitoring plans allowing installation of the first two Cape Sharp turbines. Colin Sproul of the fisherman’s association accuses the minister of showing a shameful lack of judgment. “I see the environment minister’s place as being important to err on the side of caution,” he says. “Her job is to protect the environment.” A lawyer for the association says the fishermen are considering whether to challenge the minister’s decision in the courts. In the meantime, the environment minister says no more than the first two turbines can be deployed until a new environmental monitoring plan is in place. The minister’s news release adds: “In addition, FORCE must develop programs aimed at enhancing marine mammal monitoring and providing more details on contingency planning in the event of equipment failure, data deficiency, or loss of data.”

June 2016: CBC Nova Scotia publishes an online report touting Big Moon Power. The company has been testing technology in the Minas Basin that it claims will generate tidal power without harming fish. The technology consists of an on-shore generator with a drum that has a long, high-strength polymer rope connected to a barge-like structure in the water with a perpendicular piece of steel attached to its bottom called a Kinetic Keel. The keel generates power by turning the drum as it moves slowly to and from shore with the tidal currents. Company CEO Lynn Blodgett says meetings with the Nova Scotia Dept. of Energy and FORCE have gone well and Big Moon is hoping to get approval for a demonstration berth to conduct more sea trials.

July 2016: The Bay of Fundy Fisherman’s Association files a formal application with the Nova Scotia Supreme Court requesting a judicial order to set aside the environment’s minister decision in June allowing deployment of the first two Cape Sharp tidal turbines. Among other things, the application contends that the minister failed to consider evidence that the turbines may harm ocean wildlife including fish and marine mammals.

July 2016: The first of two Cape Sharp tidal turbines arrives in Halifax Harbour after being transported by barge around Nova Scotia from the Pictou shipyard where it was assembled. Plans call for concrete to be added to its subsea base as ballast. The work is expected to take about 10 days.

July 2016: CBC reports that the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association is accusing Cape Sharp Tidal Inc. of refusing to meet fishermen at a public meeting, but instead is proposing private meetings. “We really would like to engage Cape Tidal Venture, but we just feel it’s irresponsible to do it in an off-the-record, informal manner like they’ve requested,” spokesman Colin Sproul is quoted as saying. CBC also reports that the Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative has issued a public letter expressing concerns about the possible effects of tidal turbines on fish and fish habitats.

July 2016: Minas Energy of Halifax announces it has formed a partnership with Ontario-based International Marine Energy Inc. (IME) and the Dutch turbine manufacturer Tocardo International BV. The new Minas Tidal Limited Partnership says it hopes to begin testing Tocardo’s platform-based rotor turbines in the Minas Passage in late 2017.

August 2016: The first of two Cape Sharp tidal turbines arrives in Saint John, NB from Halifax Harbour. Sarah Dawson, who speaks for the company, says Cape Sharp needs to replace fastening components that secure part of the turbine generator in position. Repairs are already underway on the fasteners in a second turbine that is being assembled at the shipyard in Pictou.

August 2016: The chief operations officer with OpenHydro, one of the partner companies in Cape Sharp Tidal, writes to the Canadian Transportation Agency asking for permission to use a foreign-registered, heavy-lift vessel in an operation to replace the defective fastening components in the turbine at Saint John Harbour. Jacques Chatelet tells the CTC the matter is urgent because the company has suffered financial losses because of the defective component and to avoid further losses, needs to get the turbine deployed in early November. “If the November window is missed,” Chatelet’s letter says, “it could push deployment to the spring of 2017 due to weather restrictions and, if so, would threaten the very existence of our company.”

August 2016: A lawyer for the fisherman’s association appears before a judge in Halifax seeking dates for court hearings in the legal challenge against tidal turbines. The judge sets October 20 as the date for an initial hearing so that the fishermen can seek to block deployment in early November. She schedules a full hearing for February 1 and 2, 2017 when the association will seek to overturn the Nova Scotia government’s decision in June to allow turbine deployment.

Sept. 2016: The Assembly of Nova Scotia Mi’kmaq Chiefs issues a news release reiterating concerns over potential effects of tidal turbines including the displacement of Mi’kmaq fishing, effects on fish and marine mammals and the failure to take traditional ecological knowledge into account. The release quotes Chief Carol Potter of the Bear River First Nation: “This project will impact our ability to fish in an area that has been used for generations…We need to have a voice in the decision-making process for this project.”

Oct. 2016: Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge Jamie Campbell hears a request from the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fisherman’s Association for a temporary halt to the deployment of the Cape Sharp tidal turbine that is apparently set for early November. David Coles, the lawyer for the association, argues the turbine would cause irreparable harm to marine life and prevent the gathering of baseline data about conditions before deployment. The judge is asked to weigh reports from two scientists from Acadia University who support the fishermen’s contention that baseline studies should be conducted before turbines go into the water. However, the judge is also asked to consider a report from a third Acadia scientist who writes that turbine deployment would provide much-needed information about potential effects on sea life in the Minas Passage. Mr. Justice Campbell promises a decision soon.

Oct. 2016: Five days after hearing the fishermen’s case against turbine deployment, the judge denies their request to halt deployment. His written decision says that such a deployment would not cause irreparable harm between early November and February when the fisherman’s association plans to present its case against the provincial environment minister’s decision to allow the installation of turbines in the Minas Passage. Judge Campbell suggests the provincial environment minister acted reasonably in June when she approved installation of the two turbines on the grounds that testing them would establish whether they have detrimental effects on the environment. The fishermen say they will continue their legal challenge to the turbines in February.

Nov. 2016: Five years to the day after the official opening of the FORCE visitor centre west of Parrsboro, Cape Sharp Tidal successfully lowers its five-storey, 1,000 tonne turbine into the calm waters of the Minas Passage. FORCE general manager, Tony Wright calls the deployment an incredible accomplishment adding, “If this industry is going to grow here in Nova Scotia, two fundamental questions need to be answered. One is the viability of the technology and two is about the potential risks to the ecology.”

Nov. 2016: Two weeks after turbine deployment, the provincial energy minister flips a switch to mark the beginning of tidal power production in Nova Scotia. “Tidal energy packs huge potential for our province — as an economic driver, an expertise-builder and as a clean energy source for Canada and beyond,” Michel Samson tells reporters. However, a few kilometres away at the edge of a muddy road leading to the FORCE centre, a small group of protesters have erected signs declaring “Turbines Kill Fish” and “Bay of Fundy is a Food Source not Power Source.”

Nov.-Dec. 2016: Thousands of herring begin appearing on beaches in St. Marys Bay, near Digby, N.S. Then, scores of dead starfish, clams, lobsters, mussels and a dead whale are washed ashore. Federal scientists say they’re mystified as to why the creatures are dying. They speculate that a sudden drop in water temperature after a winter storm might have killed sea life in the area. However, fishermen wonder whether the newly installed tidal turbine could be responsible. Colin Sproul of the Bay of Fundy Fisherman’s Association says the herring might have been driven away from the northern part of the bay by the low-frequency noise from the turbine combined with electromagnetic fields from subsea cables in the Minas Passage. However, scientists say any connection between the fish kill and the turbine is highly unlikely.