Nova Scotia

Bay of Fundy tidal power experiment approved by Nova Scotia government

The province doesn't anticipate marine life will be chopped up by "any food processor effects."

'The picture of life present in the Minas Basin is highly inaccurate,' says fisherman Colin Sproul

This giant turbine is destined to capture energy from the moon's gravity in the Bay of Fundy's tidal bore. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

The province has approved a plan to deploy two experimental tidal turbines in the Minas Passage for research purposes — and doesn't anticipate marine life will be chopped up by "any food processor effects."

The government announced the approval of the proposed monitoring program for the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) and Cape Sharp Tidal Venture in a news release on Monday.

The turbines, which are each 16 metres in diameter and weigh 1,000 tonnes, were originally scheduled for deployment last year, but were delayed by weather.

Nonetheless, the project is currently on pause while Cape Sharp Tidal Venture consults with fishing organizations "who feel that they have not yet been heard," company spokeswoman Sarah Dawson said in an email. "We wouldn't want to pre-judge the process."

Province 'heard' fishermen

Fishermen and environmental groups have raised concerns that the giant turbines would have a negative impact on marine life in the Bay of Fundy. 

"We certainly heard what the fishermen said," Nova Scotia Environment Minister Margaret Miller said at a news conference Monday. 

"This hasn't been a two-week process. We've been consulting with the fishermen and gathering data since 2009, so this has been a long process." 

Environment Minister Margaret Miller says the turbines need to be in the water to learn more about environmental effects. (CBC)

Data 'highly inaccurate'

That data is insufficient, said Colin Sproul, a lobster fisherman with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, which opposes this project. 

"Through FORCE's own admission and through assessment of federal DFO and science officials, the picture of life present in the Minas Basin is highly inaccurate and not appropriate for this installation," Sproul said after Monday's announcement.

"The baseline science needs to be completed before the installation of this turbine or we will never be able to gauge its effects in the future."

Sproul said he has met with Nova Scotia MPs to relay the group's concerns. He said he has been promised a meeting with the federal Fisheries and Oceans minister, as well.

Colin Sproul is with the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association. (CBC)

More consults since delay

The full environmental impact of the project will not be known until the turbines are in the water, Miller said. 

The project was delayed at the start of June pending company consultation with fishermen, who had concerns with the monitoring program. Since then, the province has run more consultations with Fisheries and Oceans Canada, as well as fishermen and the company involved, environmental assessment officer Steve Sanford said at the news conference. 

"These devices have been deployed successfully in other jurisdictions, however the bay — entirely it sets itself apart from any other jurisdiction in the world," he said.

The testing will help shed more light on what might need to be adjusted before any further turbine projects go ahead. Any future turbines deployed will require written authorization from the Department of Environment.

Environmental assessment officer Steve Sanford says the province will learn from the turbines ahead of approving any future projects. (CBC)

No 'food processor effects'

Sanford said the environmental monitoring program is built on a "tremendous amount of information," which will only grow as more data is collected from the "low risk deployment" of the two test turbines. 

For example, he said the turbines will spin at a walking speed, too slow for fish or mammals to hit.

"We don't anticipate any food processor effects," Sanford said.

According to the province, FORCE must develop programs to enhance marine mammal monitoring and provide details on contingency planning should equipment fail or data becomes deficient or lost.

Cape Sharp Tidal's giant turbines are designed to capture some of the the massive potential energy in the Bay of Fundy's tidal bore, the most extreme in the world. The turbines are expected to generate enough electricity to power 1,000 homes.

With files from Sabrina Fabian