One of the tidal turbines came through Halifax Harbour earlier this year. Photo: Halifax Examiner
One of the tidal turbines came through Halifax Harbour earlier this year. Photo: Halifax Examiner

There’s still no word on when two massive turbines will be lowered into the Bay of Fundy at a tidal power demonstration site not far from the town of Parrsboro.

A barge and two support boats have been working in the Minas Passage this week, but the turbines have not been deployed. A spokesperson for Cape Sharp Tidal — a joint venture between French-owned OpenHydro and Emera — says no decision has been made about lowering the turbines. Fog and wind are factors which will affect the operation and Saturday’s forecast is for wind.

Earlier this summer, the company had targeted the  November 4-6 period as the best window to attempt the deployment of two, 1,000-tonne turbines from a custom-built barge.

A favourable neap tide this weekend reduces the distance between high and low tides, making that an ideal time for deployment.

Last week, a Nova Scotia Supreme Court judge rejected a bid by the Bay of Fundy Inshore Fishermen’s Association to postpone the installation until its appeal of the Nova Scotia Environment Minister’s decision to allow the  pilot project  can be heard this February.  NS Supreme Court judge Jamie Campbell rejected the fishermen’s argument  that deploying the turbines now would cause “irreparable harm” to the environment or the ability to gather baseline data from which changes can be measured.

“The request for a stay (of proceedings) is interfering with a multi-million dollar project,” Cape Sharp lawyer Doug Tupper told Judge Jamie Campbell two weeks ago. “We have the ability to deploy right now.”

But if Cape Sharp is planning to go ahead this weekend, it’s not saying so. The two turbines — each five storeys high — are waiting in Saint John New Brunswick,  a five-to-six hour tow ride away in good conditions. A component that secures the turbine generator was recently replaced on one machine but not the other, suggesting the company is now focussing on getting one turbine in the water but not two.

“This week, we have been undergoing some pre-deployment operations at the FORCE site  [Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy in the Minas Passage], checking lines and doing positioning tests to recover and inspect the subsea cable,” said Sarah Dawson,  spokesperson for Cape Sharp Tidal. “In terms of deployment we have a window of opportunity every two weeks when the tide conditions are optimal, but the decision hasn’t yet been made as to when operations will get underway.”

It’s been seven years since the first and much smaller OpenHydro turbine was launched and quickly damaged by the powerful tides. Tens of millions of dollars of engineering and effort  have gone into the  next generation model.

This time last year, a construction issue with an unfinished turbine led Cape Sharp to postpone deployment until the spring of 2016. That missed target now has the company anxiously watching the weather to see if Mother Nature will allow a 2.0 megawatt tidal turbine to get into the harsh environment of the Bay before another year ends.

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

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