The tidal generator. Photo: Sustainable Marine Energy Canada

A renewed effort is underway to harness Bay of Fundy tidal power using a floating platform technology with six mounted turbines to capture kinetic energy from the flowing water.* The Pempa’q In-stream Tidal Energy Project will build upon the knowledge gained during a two-year field test at Grand Passage near Digby where the PLAT-I produced 280 kW of electricity. 

Pempa’q is a Mi’kmaw word meaning “rising tide.” The next-generation of platform will involve millions of dollars of investment from global players headquartered in Germany and Scotland, before the device is lowered into a berth at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) near Parrsboro. The target date for deployment is the second quarter of next year, 2021.

“This is a fantastic achievement for the whole Sustainable Marine Energy team in Canada, Scotland, and Germany who have spent the past two years solving a range of technical, environmental, and commercial challenges to get this project across the line,” said Jason Hayman, CEO of Sustainable Marine Energy. “Support has been provided for this project, the first of its kind in the world, by a large number of stakeholders including the provincial government of Nova Scotia who have steadfastly promoted the potential of the Bay of Fundy’s tidal energy resource. We look forward to working with reconcept to deliver a successful project that will provide an attractive return for their investors.”

Hamburg-based reconcept GmbH is an asset manager specializing in renewable energy investments. It’s providing financing for the first phase through equity and debt, and is establishing a capital fund which has so far attracted more than 250 investors to see the project through its second phase.

Examiner readers will recall tidal projects like these require very deep pockets. Two separate turbines launched in the Minas Passage by a joint venture between Open Hydro (an Irish company acquired by a French defence contractor) and Emera were both knocked out of commission shortly after being deployed. The second turbine (designed to sit mounted on the ocean floor) is still there, despite attempts by the NS Department of Energy to find a company willing to spend $4.5 million to retrieve it in return for berth space to field test their own turbine design. So far, no takers. 

The Pempa’q Project

Pempa’q is a joint venture between two developers: Minas Tidal, which grew out of a Nova Scotia company started by tidal pioneer John Woods, and Sustainable Marine Energy Canada, headquartered in Scotland. The main shareholders of Sustainable Marine Energy (SME) are the turbine manufacturer Schottel Energy of Germany, and Scottish Enterprise. SME acquired its demonstration berth from another early-stage Nova Scotia company called Black Rock Tidal, which leased the berth next door to Minas Tidal. 

A company called Spicer Marine Energy, headed by former Nova Scotia Power vice-president Mark Savory, will deliver and operate the Pempa’q Project over its 15-year lifespan for the project owners, reconcept’s capital fund. David Stoddart-Scott, a manager with Sustainable Marine Energy, declined to reveal the size of the investment by reconcept citing “investor confidentiality.”

The first phase of Pempa’q will involve three platforms, each mounted with six turbines that can generate up to 420 kW. The rotors have a diameter of four metres. Phase 1 will generate 1.26 MW. If successful, the second phase of the trial could expand to 21 platforms with capacity to generate 9 MW of tidal energy. Pempa’q has a contract to sell its output to Nova Scotia Power at a premium price of 53 cents per kilowatt hour, several times higher than other forms of fuel, as an incentive to encourage development of this type of renewable energy. 

The news release from Sustainable Marine Energy says components for the next-generation floating platform have begun arriving at its Dartmouth location. The platform will be assembled and launched at A.F.Theriault & Son in Meteghan later this year. The companies are hopeful it can be installed near Digby at the Grand Passage test site for commissioning during next winter. Depending on how that goes, the company hopes to test the waters of Minas Passage by early next summer.

*This is a more accurate technical description than originally published.

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Jennifer Henderson

Jennifer Henderson is a freelance journalist and retired CBC News reporter.

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  1. Cue fishermen saying that this — not their thousands of tonnes of lost gear and thousands of litres of spilled diesel — are going to decimate the marine environment in 3-2-1…

  2. Thanks for that article Jennifer! That is huge good news!!
    I’m especially glad to hear the turbines will be floating units since present predictions of the amount and timing of sea level rise may be off by quite a bit. I hope some consideration is also given to designing rotor units with optimized flange shapes and diameters that besides producing much needed clean power, also a) can be replaced later with different experimental designs (if needed), and b) minimize underwater cavitation noise that can interfere with communication between whales and other sea life.