The proposed new generation of turbines are about five stories high and weigh 1,000 tonnes.

The proposed new generation of turbines are about five stories high and weigh 1,000 tonnes, although approved for testing, they have not yet been placed on the seafloor.
Photo Credit: Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press

Fundy tide power, controversy continues over ‘transparency’ concerns

Plan to capture the power of the Bay of Fundy tidal bore: possible power for 1,000 homes

The bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world at about 6 metres or much higher in some areas.  Each tide moves well over 100 billion tonnes of seawater into and out of the bay.

For years if not decades, people have thought of capturing the powerful tidal energy and turning it into electrical power and although estimates vary, if the tidal power can be harnessed, it would be in the hundreds of megawatts.  The current plan says up to 1,000 homes could be powered by initial turbines.

However, the idea has always been controversial, and in terms of technology, extremely challenging. The recent ideas have involved installing turbines on the sea floor and as the water rushes in and out, the current would spin the turbines creating power. The currents however have proven extremely powerful, up to 18 km/h, and other massive turbines in previous efforts have seen the blades bent or broken right off.

This is a screen grab of animation from OpenHydro, which shows the turbine being lowered onto the floor of the Bay of Fundy.
This is a screen grab of animation of a similar concept by another company called OpenHydro, a partner of Cape Sharp Tidal, which shows the turbine being lowered onto the floor of the Bay of Fundy. © OpenHydro.com

The latest effort involves a company called Cape Sharp Tidal Venture. After procedural delays they were given the OK to install two giant 1,000 tonne turbines in the Minas Passage and basin. The passage is a relatively narrow area about five kilometres wide, 15 kilometres long, and up to 150 metres deep.

Red dot shows approximate location of turbines at the narrows into the Minas Basin in Nova Scotia. the narrowing creates extremely strong currents as tide flows in and out of the basin.
Red dot shows approximate location of turbines at the narrows into the Minas Basin in Nova Scotia. the narrowing creates extremely strong currents as tide flows in and out of the basin. © Google Maps

Commercial fishing operators are unhappy about the plan and have long said more study needs to be done to determine the affect on fishing and the marine ecosystem. They say there has been a lack of transparency and consultation about the project.

Although approved, the turbines have not yet been installed. As the turbines are being prepared for installation, the company says the delay gives them time to consult informally with the people opposed to the project. The fishermen, and others, say they don’t want ‘one-on-one” talks in an effort they claim is to ‘divide and conquer’. They say they want formal public discussions “on the record”.

Both the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association and Mi’kmaq Rights Initiative have expressed similar concerns about the turbines affect on fish, and on fish habitats.

They say creatures including sharks and others riding the swift moving tide would not be able to see and avoid the turbines and blades due to the very murky water.

Colin Sproul is with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association
Colin Sproul is with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association. He says fishermen want more information on the effects of the turbines on the ecosystem, something that is lacking at present. The turbine company says it will consult informally, byu the fishermen want a public meeting with their concerns and answers expressed *on the record’. © CBC

The Department of Fisheries and oceans says the turbines spinning at a walking pace would have little affect on marine life, but admits there is insufficient data to be sure.  In a letter in June from DFO manager Mark McLeane to Nova Scotia Environment he pointed out that the environmental effects monitoring program’s information provides “only limited understanding of the potential interactions with the turbines or use of the site by marine species”.

The DFO adds this could limit the ability of regulators to assess the potential affects on marine life.

The DFO is making a number of recommendations, but is relying also on something called ‘dead animal tracking’, whereby people report dead marine life washing up on shore.

Some five different companies have been granted permission to test their technology at the demonstration site near Parrsboro Nova Scotia in the Minas Passage and Minas basin. These include: Minas Energy, Black Rock Tidal Power (with local and national partners Schottel Hydro and Tidal Stream), Atlantis Operations Canada (partnered with DP Energy, Lockheed Martin, and Irving Shipbuilding), Cape Sharp Tidal Venture (partnered with OpenHydro and Emera), and DP Marine Energy.

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3 comments on “Fundy tide power, controversy continues over ‘transparency’ concerns
  1. Michael Woodward says:

    I understand that a study of the effects of a similar but larger proposal determined that altering the geometry of the Minas Basin brought the Bay of Fundy system closer to a tidal resonance, increasing the range of the tide. This could cause serious flooding in coastal areas.

  2. Herry says:

    Must be another, ‘stupid’ contest.

  3. Robin Ottawa says:

    Let’s get ‘er done, by. The moon’s gravity powers our tides and it can provide power for millennia, or at least until it causes the moon’s orbit to decay and the moon to fall into the ocean.