Nova Scotia Power's parent company has become a partner in a project called Maine Aqua Ventus to harness wind energy off the coast of Maine.

Emera Inc. confirms it has been involved in the development of the specialized floating wind turbines, and today appears to be the first time the company's affiliation with the project has been mentioned publicly.

"We are a partner, and much like a lot of our different projects, we are participating as a partner in a project to see if the technology is viable potentially for large deployment," said Christian Richard, vice-president of special projects with Emera . 

Richard was speaking at the Marine Renewables Canada annual conference, taking place in Halifax this week.

"We've been part of this consortium since 2014, but have not made a financial investment in the project," Sarah Dawson, a representative of Emera, said via email.

"Our contributions have been in-kind to date," she added.

Many benefits to being offshore

Richard listed reasons why placing turbines on floating platforms at sea might be favourable over land or fixed platforms.

He said floating turbines can feed electricity to coastal urban centres where there may not be wide open areas suitable for conventional turbines.

Floating turbines can be placed further from shore, often so far that they can't easily be seen from land, but can be brought back to shore for maintenance or technical upgrades.

Maine offshore turbine

A one-eighth prototype of the final proposed turbine. This smaller version has already been deployed and connected to the electrical grid in Maine. (University of Maine)

However, the floating bases must be designed to handle the weight of the turbine and the huge forces exerted against it.

"We're just testing the technology and working with a consortium," Richard said.

Teams from the University of Maine, various technology and composites experts, and Emera have worked together to develop a prototype one-eighth the size of a full-scale turbine.

The prototype has been deployed and generated electricity that was fed into the Maine power grid.

Richard said it's too early to know when the full-scale project might be built or deployed. However, he did confirm Nova Scotia likely won't be a recipient of its power.

"That's not an opportunity we're currently focused on," he said.