A pioneer in tidal energy that has received tens of millions of dollars from the federal and provincial government is pulling out of Nova Scotia.
In a news release issued this morning, Sustainable Marine Energy blamed ongoing delays by the Department of Fisheries and Oceans for failing to provide the necessary permits to deploy its technology in the Minas Passage near Parrsboro this summer.
Last May, after several years work at another site near Digby, the company became the first in Canada to successfully connect its two tidal turbines to the provincial grid operated by Nova Scotia Power.
Sustainable Marine Energy, a company headquartered in Scotland, where the in-stream tidal technology mounted on a platform was first developed, was using the calmer water of Grand Passage near Digby to prove up the technology and conduct environmental monitoring in preparation for moving the platform to the harsher environment in the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro this summer.
There are five berths at the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) site empty and waiting for a demonstration project.
“We are disappointed that we have not been able to obtain the permissions we need from DFO to continue with the Pempa’q Instream Tidal Energy Project and deploy at the FORCE tidal test site,” said Jason Hayman, CEO of Sustainable Marine Energy, in the press release.
“This is a great shame considering not only our technology is ready, but there have also been massive investments in the tools and infrastructure necessary to deliver the project, including our vessel, the Tidal Pioneer, which is the most capable inshore construction vessel on the Eastern seaboard.”
Hayman added that Sustainable Marine has received very strong support from Natural Resources Canada (NRCan) and the Province of Nova Scotia as well as having secured financing from the private sector to “fully deliver” the Pempa’q project in the harsher part of the Bay of Fundy near Parrsboro.
Hayman’s comment was in sharp contrast to a two-minute scolding Premier Tim Houston gave Ottawa when he tweeted the company’s plan to leave the province.
Here’s a small portion of what the premier said in a video with the tweet:
The work Sustainable Marine Energy has been doing is incredibly important for our province and the country. Why then is the company packing it in? The federal government shut them down. The federal department dragged its feet so long that the company is leaving. Its ridiculous!
This is a massive blow to the tidal industry in our region and a massive blow to moving Nova Scotia and the country toward a greener grid. Shame on the federal government!
Houston then segued into a criticism of the federal carbon tax, which Nova Scotians will begin paying this July, questioning why Ottawa wasn’t support “clean, green tidal power.”
Houston made no mention of the fact that another federal department, Natural Resources Canada, put $28.5 million of public money into the Sustainable Marine project. The company, which is headquartered in Scotland and has renewable energy projects in the UK and Europe, plans to bring its platform and turbines out of the water later this week and move them outside Canada.
The platform was built by the Theriault shipyard in Meteghan.
“We were very proud to be part of the construction of the first platform in Canada to generate floating tidal energy and while it may require a little more study in a different jurisdiction, it would be unfortunate to see the momentum of the sector shift backwards,” said Gilles Theriault, president of AF Theriault & Sons Ltd, in the news release issued by Sustainable Marine. “The team at Sustainable Marine has proven to be very conscientious stewards of our waters and in all their operations over the last five years.”
The Halifax Examiner has confirmed the company completed its application and submitted it to the federal Department of Fisheries and Ocean DFO last summer.
Asked by the Examiner in January 2023, DFO communications spokesperson Christine Lyons said the department’s policy was not to comment on applications for permits until a decision was made.
Sustainable Marine said it had attempted “for the past five years” to work with DFO to understand “ a clear regulatory pathway” that might allow the company to deploy its technology in a harsher environment at the Minas Passage near Parrsboro.
Last August, Sustainable Marine put out a news release announcing it had hired additional help to beef up the environmental monitoring it had been doing from the Digby platform over the previous 14 months.
“With the support of fish tracking experts Innovasea, Sustainable Marine is now trialling advanced techniques that could further enhance knowledge of the marine ecosystem — including fish tag triangulation, tests of close-range high-resolution imaging sonar and exploration of artificial intelligence techniques for video processing,” said Hayman in that release, continuing:
We have now compiled a number of monitoring reports, produced on a quarterly basis. Our findings are consistent with all other studies which have been completed over the last 15 years involving the deployment and operation of in-stream turbines around the world, that have to date observed no negative interactions or harm to marine life.
More specifically, our hydrophone data has identified low amounts of turbine noise, and neither hearing injury nor significant behavioural disturbance of fish is expected based on the measured sound levels. Meanwhile, in the 14 months of deployment, fish tag receivers have detected six animals, likely to be great white sharks, with no other marine mammals or fish species identified in the vicinity of the platform.
The Examiner has asked DFO for its side of the story and will update this article when we receive a response.
The departure of Sustainable Marine Energy is another frustrating setback for Nova Scotia’s tidal power ambitions. Over the past eight years, the province has spent tens of millions of dollars researching tidal power as a potential source of renewable energy, as well as establishing the FORCE demonstration site at Minas Passage near Parrsboro.
The first project to test the waters, a $20 million-plus venture between Open Hydro and Emera, ended with the abandonment of a 1,000-tonne turbine on the floor of the Bay of Fundy in 2018.