Nova Scotia

Cape Sharp Tidal delays Bay of Fundy turbine project

A tidal project in the Bay of Fundy has been put on hold both by the company behind it and Nova Scotia's environment department, in the wake of criticism by local fishermen.

Nova Scotia environment minister says monitoring program not yet approved

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

A tidal project in the Bay of Fundy has been put on hold both by the company behind it and Nova Scotia's Environment Department in the wake of criticism by local fishermen. 

Cape Sharp Tidal, a venture backed by energy companies Emera and OpenHydro, was scheduled to move the first of two five-storey high, two-megawatt turbines from Pictou, N.S., this weekend for installation in the Minas Passage later this month.

Paul Laberge, project lead for Emera, said the company has consulted extensively, but wants to speak further with fishermen worried about environmental impacts, particularly on shellfish, scallops, lobsters and whales.

"We're taking the opportunity to pause the deployment," Laberge told CBC's Mainstreet

Science questioned

Cape Sharp Tidal's giant turbines are designed to capture energy from the moon's gravity 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.

Some community members oppose the project and worry the turbines will affect larvae and mammals in the water.

They have called for better government oversight, pointing to a federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans report released in May that found holes in the environmental monitoring program.

The report said baseline data measuring species in the area — and ability to measure mortality rates — was insufficient. But DFO also agreed the project should still go ahead.

The turbine spins at walking speed and is "hardly detectable" by fish, Laberge said. He added similar projects elsewhere in the world cause no issues.

Monitoring program not ready

As for the province, it needs to approve the company's environments effects monitoring program, developed by Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy, before authorizing any turbines in the water. 

"The environment monitoring program isn't ready yet," Environment Minister Margaret Miller told CBC News Thursday afternoon. 

"It's not going to go out until we're happy."

The company expected to have that approved ahead of installation, Laberge said in an interview, and has heard nothing to the contrary. 

"Moving the turbine, it's a couple week transit time around the province," he said. "Our expectation was that all the approvals would be in place."

The department is reviewing the information, and Miller did not have a timeline for when it might authorize the turbine installation.

'Science and the evidence'

She said the company's decision to delay shipping the turbines is a "really good move" as it may ease some fears, but that the Department of Environment will make its decisions based on science and evidence.

The provincial government and the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy have done more than 70 impact studies ahead of the project, the centre's general manager, Tony Wrigh, told CBC. 

"We'll never have the complete picture," he said. "We could spend hundreds of millions more — and so we'll never have a complete understanding of this kind of environment, but we've got a pretty good one."

He said to get a tidal energy industry going, Cape Sharp Tidal needs to put the turbine in the water and see what happens. 

'Zero respect for the environment'

Colin Sproul, spokesman for the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen's Association, said the installation delay is a "welcome development," but not what he wanted. 

He worries the turbines will harm fish and whales — and endanger an established industry.

"Maybe there's a way in the future to harness the power of the Minas Passage, but certainly not with tidal in-stream devices," Sproul said. "That shows zero respect for the environment."

He said the association has asked the company to halt installation, remove equipment, and undertake a new ecology study with oversight from DFO, along with input from industry, community and First Nations representatives. 

About the Author

Rachel Ward

Journalist

Rachel Ward is a journalist with the Fifth Estate. You can reach her with questions or story ideas at rachel.ward@cbc.ca.

With files from Jerry West and CBC Mainstreet

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