Sea trials to begin for next contender trying to master Bay of Fundy’s tides

Floating tidal energy turbines are expected to be installed Monday for sea trials in the Grand Passage on Digby Neck, N.S.

The deployment, weather permitting, is a critical test for Sustainable Marine Energy, which is headquartered in the U.K. and has an office in Dartmouth.

The company has received $28.5 million from Ottawa for its venture into the high-risk, high-reward effort to generate electricity from the Bay of Fundy tides.

“Grand Passage is our test track, if you like, before we go to the race,” said Sustainable Marine CEO Jason Hayman.

About the latest contender

The company will deploy six turbines from the back of a vessel resembling a trimaran moored between Brier and Long islands.

The turbine blades are four metres wide. The array will produce about 420 kilowatts of electricity.

The platform was assembled at the nearby AF Theriault Shipyard in Meteghan. It’s a larger version of a prototype tested in the Grand Passage over the past two years.

Floating tidal turbines leaving AF Theriault Shipyard in Meteghan on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021, en route to sea trials at Grand Passage, Digby Neck. (Sustainable Marine Energy)

“So here we are developing a new car for the season. We’ve got to make sure it performs on the test track, and where it’s maybe easier to play with things and tweak things before we take it up to the main event,” said Hayman.

The main event is farther up in the Bay of Fundy, at a technology demonstration berth in the Minas Passage where the 10-knot tides are more powerful.

“If it was a wind turbine, it’s equivalent to putting it in hurricane-strength winds,” said Hayman. “That gives us the opportunity to produce about 50 per cent more power with the same sort of sized platform because of that difference in the energy that’s there.”

Testing graveyard

Two other turbines mounted on the ocean floor were tested in the non-profit Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE) site in the Minas Passage.

Neither survived. The first was destroyed within three weeks of deployment in 2009.

The second is still rusting on the bottom after it was abandoned when the developer went bankrupt.

Aims to power about 3,000 homes

Sustainable Marine hopes to deploy there this summer.

Over the next three years, the company plans to ramp up its efforts in the Minas Passage to the point where multiple floating platforms generate nine megawatts — enough, it says, to power about 3,000 homes in Nova Scotia.

Hayman has no illusions about what is ahead.

“We think we will be able to handle the FORCE site, which is a pretty ferocious environment to be installing any equipment,” he said.

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