New attempt to harness Bay of Fundy tidal power

A new phase is beginning in the effort to harness the Bay of Fundy's world-famous tides to generate electricity.

A company that's been running a demonstration project in the Minas Passage is preparing to install its latest generation tidal turbine.

The turbine is 16 metres in diameter. It was hauled out of Saint John Harbour on Wednesday after getting upgrades for about the past year.

"We've got to get this right," said Alisdair McLean, a director of Cape Sharp Tidal, which is a partnership between Ireland-based OpenHydro and Nova Scotia-based utility company Emera. 

"Putting a turbine in the sub-seabed in the Minas Passage is a challenging activity and we want to be confident that we're putting the very best turbine in that we can."

Cape Sharp ran an earlier-version turbine at Minas Passage for six months, from November 2016 to April 2017.

McLean said modifications were made based on that experience, as well as lessons learned by partner OpenHydro building turbines in France.

"Through those deployments and experiences we learned that we could improve the reliability and the efficiency of the turbines if we made some upgrades," said McLean, who is also OpenHydro's manager for Canada.

"So that's what we decided to do with this turbine before we put it in the water at Minas Passage."

Get ready to lower it

Thirty to 45 people are expected to be at work on the project in the Parrsboro area for several days.

"Today we're doing some system checks to make sure everything's a go, getting ready to deploy the turbine," McLean said.

A tugboat will pull the custom barge into position and the turbine will eventually be lowered into the water with cables over a period of 70 to 90 minutes, he expects. 

The turbine is outfitted with monitors that can be accessed by internet, said McLean, and a sub-sea cable transmits power to the Nova Scotia grid.

Cape Sharp is still looking to demonstrate that the turbine can be run efficiently and without hurting the environment.

"That may be the most important consideration here," McLean said.

"We hope and expect that the results of that will show that there's a benign impact on the environment, in which case we'll get permission from regulators to keep the turbine there for quite a few years," he said.

Big Moon Power is testing an alternative way of generating tidal power it calls a Kinetic Keel. (Big Moon Power)

Cape Sharp isn't the only company working on tidal power generation at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy.

Minas Tidal, Atlantis Operations, Black Rock Tidal Power and Haligonia Tidal Energy Ltd / DP Energy are all listed as partners on FORCE's website.

They are all planning to deploy demonstration projects between now and 2020, according to a spokesperson for the Nova Scotia Department of Energy and Mines.

Big Moon received two permits this spring to test a (single) prototype kinetic keel and to increase the size of its project in phases over five years. Its test site is on the south side of the Minas Passage.

Instead of a turbine, it uses a floating platform with a perpendicular piece of steel, attached to a drum and generator on land. 

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