A OncePromising Green Energy Technology Hits A Roadblock

A OncePromising Green Energy Technology Hits A Roadblock

As part of the Times coverage of last year's global climate summit, I wrote about a project in Nova Scotia to generate renewable electricity from storm surges in the Bay of Fundy. Now pilots can be grounded quickly due to regulatory hurdles.

The extraordinary tides of the Bay of Fundy have long been recognized as a source of abundant electrical energy. At Pasaje de Minas, the narrowest part of the bay, the water level rises or falls by about 17 meters, roughly the height of a four-story building, and can generate incredible amounts of "energy".

[Read: Who will win the race to generate electricity from ocean tides? ]

Most of the power projects in the Bay of Fundy have met with disaster or disappointment, in part because they have placed their turbines on the ocean floor where underwater debris such as sunken logs has been destroyed. Sustainable Marine, a German company focused on tidal energy, is breaking new ground. Instead of placing the turbines on the ocean floor, Sustainable Marine places them in a vessel that vaguely looks like a submarine, flanked by two large burners.

While the ship is in the water, the remote operator lowers or raises the turbines when whales and other marine mammals are seen nearby or during heavy storms. The platforms are covered with sensors and cameras to track fish and other marine life.

When I visited the production platform of the PLAT-I 6.40, as the ship is officially called, the ship was making its first trials on the Great Passage of the Bay of Fundy, where the tides are less extreme. Its success there meant it had to be transferred to the stronger currents of Paso de Minas for further testing and data collection on its effects on fish and marine life. There it must be connected to the mains via one of five wires to the mainland.

But the project derailed before it could go any further. Sustainable Marine announced this week that Fisheries and Oceans Canada, better known as DFO, will not grant a permit to install the turbines in Minas Passage, will shut down the rig and cease operations in Nova Scotia.

"We always hoped we could come to a reasonable process with DFO, but we couldn't," Jason Heyman, the company's CEO, told me. "We are very disappointed with this situation, very polite. There is no rational explanation for this."

Hyman said the reason for the refusal was not made clear during the trial, which he said was unclear. Mr Heyman said investors in the company likely would not have to wait too long for approval, making a full closure likely. Completion of the project will eliminate around 20 jobs in Canada as the company plans to expand there.

Nova Scotia Prime Minister Tim Houston was also disappointed.

"This is a blow to the tide industry in our region," he said by email. “Jurisdictions around the world would love to have something like Nova Scotia in their backyard. I am deeply frustrated with our federal government and its apathy towards the possibility of greening our power grid. »

The Department of Fisheries said in a statement that confidentiality rules prevented it from discussing the details of the Sustainable Oceans permit application.

"This is a fast-moving, narrow, tidal area that is hard to see," the department wrote. "An adequate monitoring plan is needed to assess potential impacts on fish and fish habitat."

When asked why it had previously given approval for the installation of two seafloor generation turbines at the same test site, the department said the decision "depends on the position of the device in the water column" and did not provide further details.

During the Great Leap trials, said Heiman, all data was routinely sent to the Department of Fisheries as well as university researchers. He admits that Paso de Minas sometimes has visibility problems, as choppy water can overwhelm anglers and fish tracking cameras. But he added that part of the purpose of the tests was to fine-tune and improve marine life monitoring systems.

According to Hayman, there have been no reported cases of damage to fish or marine mammals by the company's systems in Canada or Europe. Previous Sustainable Marine research, Hyman said, showed that the flow of water around the turbines pulled the fish away from the underwater blades.

The company is making a last-ditch effort to reach an agreement with the DFO on the project through members of the local parliament. So far, Hyman said, the project has cost about $60 million, about half of which will be funded by the government.

"It's only economic hooliganism, pure and simple, that a habitat and fish protection program at a low enough level could end up like this," Hyman said. "There's a glimmer of hope for us that hopefully someone in an enabling jurisdiction wants to bring it back. Frankly, they're going to do a good job. Because they got something that's 85% funded by another government.

  • When Brian Maracle, who is Mohawk, left journalism and city life to return to Great River Six Nations, he quickly became disillusioned with the courses available at Kanyen'keha to teach him Mohawk. Decades later, he radically and successfully changed the way indigenous languages ​​were taught.

  • Vladimir Guerrero Jr. of the Toronto Blue Jays did well against the New York Yankees, reports Tyler Kepner.

  • The head of the BBC has resigned over his role in arranging a million dollar loan for Boris Johnson when the politician was Prime Minister. The money came from Sam Blyth, a Canadian businessman and a distant cousin of Johnson, who, among other things, founded a network of private schools that bear his name.

  • Yannick Nézette-Séguin, music director of the Metropolitan Opera and conductor of the Montreal Metropolitan Orchestra, defied conservative standards with costumes tailored for each opera production, reports Javier C. Hernández.

  • From opinion. As Canada works to expand the right to medical assistance in dying for people with serious mental illness, a first-person podcast interviews Dutch psychiatrist Dr. Sisko van Veen on psychiatric medical assistance at the time of death. Legal since 2002.

  • The Aurora Borealis' eerie light has been seen in parts of Canada, North America and Europe where it doesn't normally shine.

    A native of Windsor, Ontario, Ian Austen was educated in Toronto, lives in Ottawa and has covered Canada for the New York Times for 16 years. Follow him on Twitter at @ianrausten.


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