Tidal Power and Migratory Ice in the Minas Region of the Bay of Fundy, Canada

PUBLICATION 2010

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THE VIEW FROM SPACE of the Inter-Tidal Mudflats in the Minas Region of the Bay of Fundy, Where Thousands of 10 to 100 Tonne Cakes of Ice Migrate From the Mudflats into the Tidal Currents Each Winter
PHOTOS: MASSTOWN, Nova Scotia, of Sediment-Laden Ice
PHOTOS: SHUBENACADIE, Nova Scotia, of Sediment-Laden Ice
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PHOTOS: SUMMERVILLE, Nova Scotia, of Sediment-Laden Ice
PHOTOS: PARRSBORO, Nova Scotia, of Sediment-Laden Ice (Under Construction)
PUBLICATION 2011: SUMMARY OF IMPACT OF ICE ON THE HARVEST OF TIDAL ELECTRICITY IN THE BAY OF FUNDY, CANADA 2006-2011
PUBLICATION 2010: OpEd
2009 TESTING BUOYANCY of Samples of Sediment-Laden Cakes of Ice Grounded on the Inter-Tidal Mudflats of the Minas Region of the Bay of Fundy
PUBLICATION 2008: REVIEW OF EVIDENCE for Sub-Surface Ice in the Bay of Fundy
PUBLICATION 2008: ENGINEERING ISSUES IN THE HARVEST OF TIDAL POWER
PUBLICATION 2007: SUMMARY AND UPDATE of Surface Ice in the Bay of Fundy
PUBLICATION 2006: DOCUMENTATION of Surface Ice in the Bay of Fundy

OPINION: HALIFAX (NOVA SCOTIA) CHRONICLE HERALD


 
The Chronicle-Herald
Opinion, Saturday, November 27, 2010, p. A15

Province Must Turn the Tide on Resource Development

by Richard Sanders

 

The current approach to tidal power development in Nova Scotia should be abandoned because it is both unsuccessful and unlikely to become successful in the future.

 

With regard to the current lack of success, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), which is leading the tidal power initiative in Nova Scotia, has already made three obvious errors.

 

First, FORCE oversaw the deployment of a $10-million, 400-tonne prototype tidal electricity device in the inadequately characterized waters of the Minas Passage. Minimal characterization of this, Nova Scotia's premier tidal resource, would include an annual census of the animate and inanimate sub-surface traffic. However, on Nov. 12, 2009, the OpenHydro prototype tidal electricity device was deployed without knowledge of the annual sub-marine traffic at any site in the Minas Passage, including the OpenHydro installation site.

 

The failure to adequately characterize the tidal resource prior to device deployment may have had almost immediate consequences. Communication with the deployed device was lost within days of submersion. Further, upon video examination in the spring of 2010, the device was seen to have sustained damage - quite possibly by contact with submerged ice or the 18-metre right whale beached in the Inner Bay last spring.

 

The second failure of the FORCE was to deploy a $10-million, 400-tonne instrument with no method of access for repair. As a consequence, this device must be retrieved for forensic examination and repair.

 

The third failure of the FORCE was to deploy a tidal device which cannot readily be retrieved. The recent failed attempt to salvage the damaged OpenHydro device conjures images of rusting submarine junk in the Minas Passage.

 

To recapitulate, deployment of a $10-million device into inadequately characterized waters seems a reckless expenditure of public money. And installation of expensive equipment with no means of in situ repair or ready retrieval is at a variance with both common sense and basic engineering logic.

 

With regard to the future, the current approach to tidal power development in Nova Scotia is not likely to become successful for at least three reasons.

 

First, this approach is too reliant on secrecy. For example, data concerning the oceanography of the Minas Passage, which were generated using public money, were neither peer-reviewed and published in the scientific literature nor made available for public inspection in their non-peer-reviewed state prior to being used by FORCE to reach its decision to deploy a prototype tidal turbine. Hence, the public of Nova Scotia, which supports the province's tidal initiative through taxes and electricity costs, lacked the information to properly evaluate (or to contribute corrective insight into) FORCE's decision to deploy a prototype in 2009.

 

Second, the tidal electricity initiative is led by members of an economic oligarchy in Nova Scotia, whose mutual and individual interests may conflict with the interests of the people of Nova Scotia. Three of the four directors of FORCE are either from private-sector corporations or academia. Companies are profit-driven and academics require research money.

 

Third, inspection of the FORCE website reveals that the leaders of the tidal electricity initiative are enmeshed in complex patterns of conflicted interest. For example, NSPI has employees on both the FORCE board and the environmental committee monitoring FORCE. Further, the academic member of the board of FORCE co-chairs the environmental committee monitoring FORCE. And the chair of the board of FORCE holds a senior position at one of the private-sector companies currently seeking to test a tidal electricity device at FORCE's facility.

 

The current dysfunctional, secretive and conflicted approach to tidal power development in Nova Scotia should be replaced with provincial control of the tidal resource. Elected officials and senior civil servants should make all significant decisions and be held accountable, thereby decreasing the influence of Nova Scotia's economic oligarchs and increasing the likelihood of protecting the public's interests.

 

Richard Sanders runs Sanders Resource Management, Inc. in Halifax.

 

Figure:

 

A tug pulls the barge OpenHyrdo Installer away from its position in the Minas Basin on Monday, Nov. 15. The barge failed in its attempt to lift an undersea tidal turbine which has not been operational since being set in position a year ago. (Peter Parsons / Staff)

 

© 2010 The Chronicle-Herald - Halifax. All rights reserved.

 

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