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Researchers Differ On Readiness For Turbine Project

The report, released by the Offshore Energy Research Association (OERA) and authored by Dr. Graham Daborn of Fundy Environmental & Educational Consultants, states that since 2007, 50 studies on the bay’s marine biology and ecosystem have been conducted with more expected post deployment.

“The story continues, however, now that turbines are to be deployed in Nova Scotia waters for prolonged testing periods, because some of the remaining environmental questions can now be addressed,” said Dr. Daborn, a marine biologist and past director of the Acadia Centre for Estuarine Research at Acadia University.

However, earlier this spring, a scientific advisory division within DFO released its peer-review evaluation of studies done by FORCE, including its baseline report, its proposed Environmental and Effects Monitoring Plan (EEMP) and Cape Sharp Tidal’s EEMP based on the specific devices it plans to deploy.

In its report called Science Response — Review of the Tidal Energy Project EEMP, seven of DFO’s maritime scientists identified several gaps in FORCE’s environmental studies from the Bay of Fundy to date.

A new monitoring plan was released by FORCE in March.

“According to representatives from the Cape Sharp project and from FORCE, there are only two minor differences between the proposed EEMP that DFO reviewed and the new FORCE EEMP. This means that the concerns highlighted by DFO in their review remain to be addressed,” says the Ecology Action Centre in its position paper it released last week.

OpenHydro, the Irish company partnering with Emera in Cape Sharp, just deployed its second 500-kilowatt turbine off the coast of France on May 29 in just under an hour from its deployment barge. Its first turbine was lowered in mid-January.

A single cable will export one megawatt of energy to the French electrical grid and when the turbines are connected to a subsea cable, the project will be the world’s first grid-connected tidal array.

The design of those turbines, each a 16-metre device, is the same as expected to be lowered into the Minas Passage sometime this month.

Cape Sharp Tidal is deploying two turbines within the next month with a total four mega-watt capacity with other developers to join with a total cap of 22 mega-watts at the FORCE site.

The project’s provincial environmental assessment was approved at a smaller scale that was initially intended to be a test site, but is now basically a commercial operation with deployments lasting for years, says Dr. Trevor Avery, an adjunct professor of biology at Acadia.

With the world’s highest tides, conditions in the Bay of Fundy can’t be duplicated elsewhere, nor can its unique ecosystem which is not being wholly considered, says Avery.

“Why are we sticking turbines into the hotspot of all of this marine life production?”

“The DFO report says there are several statistical flaws with the proposed FORCE monitoring plan — basically inadequate methodology for their monitoring. I fully agree with that report.”

“With insufficient pre-deployment baseline studies, what will the monitoring plan measure? How can FORCE measure impacts when they have very little to compare them to? They say they’re doing monitoring. Well, yes they are, sort of, but with no way to definitively answer if turbines are having an effect.”

The few baseline studies on animals and insufficient monitoring creates more uncertainty and reasonable doubt about the effects of turbines today and into the future, he said.

“Reduction of uncertainty should be a part of any project undertaken responsibly.”

Avery agrees with his colleague, Dr. Daborn, that some of the outstanding questions will be answered after the turbines are deployed.

“But the evidence does not support deployment yet.”

“Deploying turbines and challenging people to prove there is an impact, after the fact, with no tools to gather evidence to prove cause and effect is not a good plan.”

Avery says he supports harnessing energy from alternative sources, “but you have to do it correctly,” he said.