|An artist's rendition shows a turbine harnessing power from the Bay of Fundy tides. Tidal power turbines with blades up to 17 metres in length will be installed in the Bay of Fundy this fall. (Canadian Press)|
The Fundy tidal power demonstration project in the Minas Basin, near Parrsboro, was given the green light Tuesday by Nova Scotia's Environment Minister Sterling Belliveau.
The project, first announced in January 2008, would set up a $10-million research facility to test underwater turbines to convert tidal energy into electricity, subject to passing a strategic environmental assessment.
The Environment Department said the project has passed the assessment and will be subject to strict conditions to protect the environment.
Among the conditions are that Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy is responsible for developing a comprehensive environmental effects monitoring program and establishing an environmental effects advisory committee.
The marine demonstration site will consist of three underwater berths for turbines located in the Minas Passage, home of the highest tides in the world.
Belliveau said he sees tidal power as a way of helping Nova Scotia meet 25 per cent of its energy requirements from renewable sources.
But he's also a longtime commercial fisherman who knows the lobstermen in the Bay of Fundy are worried the turbines may change fish migration patterns.
"These questions are not going to be addressed unless you have a demonstration project. I think you basically cannot sit in a conference room and get the answer to that," Belliveau said.
"You have to go out in the real world. There's going to be further environmental studies that will have to be done if the project is going to go to the next stage, to the commercial. This information will be a valuable tool in making recommendations at that given time."
Belliveau said fishermen must be included on an advisory committee, and the companies must monitor the impact of tidal turbines on birds and fish.
If there are any adverse consequences, Belliveau said he wouldn't hesitate to quash the project.
"The minister of environment has the authority to stop it any time, and I would not hesitate if the science and adverse effects were there," he said.
Mark Taylor, who fishes for lobster in the bay, has concerns about the technology, but he said he is willing to accept the environment minister's assurances.
"I think we'd be agreeable to that as long as he holds to his word that he will pull them out if there's any effects. I mean we're losing fishing ground as it is and we should be compensated for that, if nothing else," he said.
The objectives of the demonstration facility project as proposed by the proponent are to:
The three companies chosen for the project are:
Nova Scotia Power is working toward putting a commercial-size turbine in the bay by October, while Minas Basin Pulp and Power is aiming for next spring.