'Milestone' as giant turbine placed on seabed to harness powerful Fundy tides

PARRSBORO, N.S. – A giant tidal turbine has been lowered into position on the Bay of Fundy seabed near Parrsboro, N.S., a “huge milestone” for a test project aiming to demonstrate the industry’s potential.

A spokesman for Cape Sharp Tidal says the 1,000-tonne turbine was put into place on Monday morning during an ebb tide that lasted about four hours.

“I believe it’s a huge milestone in the tidal industry,” said Jeremy Poste, the manager of Cape Sharp Tidal, a joint venture between Emera Inc. and OpenHydro, a DCNS company.

“At the completion of the project we will be able to demonstrate the technical and financial viability of tidal.”

The company had planned to install the five-storey-high turbine over the weekend, but had to delay installation while preparation work was being done on the tail portion of the unit.

Poste said that in the next few days the turbine will be connected to the power grid through a subsea cable and is expected to begin generating electricity in the next few weeks that will eventually be enough to supply 1,000 residences.

The partnership says it eventually plans to install a pair of two megawatt, in-stream tidal turbines at the testing site, in what would become North America’s first tidal array connected to an electrical grid. The Cape Sharp project is one of several that plan to test different turbine technologies in the Bay of Fundy, which has some of the world’s most powerful tides.

However, a spokesman for the 175-member Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association said his group is upset it was deployed in the middle of lobster season, arguing it was timed deliberately for when opponents had to be at sea.

Colin Sproul also said in an interview that placing the turbine in the water prevents the proper collection of data on the normal flow of marine life in the area.

He said he is worried that the vessels operating in the area may damage lobster gear and displace fishermen from their usual fishing areas nearby.

“We’re scared that we will lose a lot of buoy lines and when the buoys are lost the traps continue to ghost fish and then … there’s the risk of damaged gear being set adrift and becoming entangled with whales,” he said.

Late last month, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge denied an injunction sought by Sproul’s group to stop the deployment. In February, the court will hear an appeal of the government-issued deployment permit.

Sarah Dawson, a spokeswoman for Cape Sharp Tidal, said the company has identified for some time that it “had opportunities to deploy every two weeks based on the tidal conditions.”

“We had all the regulatory requirements and permits in place to deploy, and our marine operators always follow best practice for marine safety,” she wrote in an email.

“It’s important to remember that this is a demonstration scale project to demonstrate it can be done safely, economically, and without environmental harm.”

— By Michael Tutton in Halifax.

Follow @mtuttoncporg on Twitter.