Published April 15, 2015 - 7:58pm
Last Updated April 15, 2015 - 8:36pm
A thousand tonnes should do it.
“Will do it,” corrected Jeremy Poste on Wednesday.
“It will not move.”
Poste’s company, OpenHydro Technology Canada, is the lead horse in a race to harness the power of the Bay of Fundy’s tides.
OpenHydro is on course to drop two 16-metre-diameter turbines, each on a 1,000-tonne base, into the Minas Channel this fall.
That 1,000 tonnes is important because it is what will prevent the huge pressure of the tide from sliding a turbine across the sea floor.
On Wednesday, MPs Peter MacKay and Scott Armstrong announced $6.353 million from Ottawa to go toward the OpenHydro project.
But OpenHydro isn’t the only horse being backed by the federal government through its Sustainable Development Technology Canada fund to place functioning tidal-powered turbines at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy test facility near Parrsboro.
Atlantis Resources Ltd. received $5 million from the fund a year ago for its test turbine, a 1.5-megawatt model that the company has said it will have installed in the Minas Passage in late 2016.
Atlantis leads a consortium that includes Lockheed Martin and Irving Shipbuilding in producing the turbine.
Like OpenHydro, it espouses lofty goals for the Bay of Fundy. After initial testing is complete, Atlantis proposes to install an array of turbines to provide power to the provincial grid.
Poste is even more ambitious for OpenHydro. He said the company plans to up capacity to 12 megawatts in 2017 and 50 megawatts in 2019. Sometime in the next decade, it’s proposing a 300-megawatt array of tidal generators that would be largely built in Nova Scotia.
It’s all pretty grand for Parrsboro, an old shipbuilding and logging town in Cumberland County that has shared the heartbreaking realities of economic decline and depopulation with most of the rest of rural Nova Scotia.
“When things don’t happen over time, people get a little cautious,” said Mayor Lois Smith of residents’ perceptions of the much-hyped tidal projects.
The town has been hearing big promises since the first OpenHydro turbine was dropped in the water at the FORCE hydroelectric testing facility in 2009. That 400-tonne, $10-million turbine had to be hauled from the water after being damaged by the powerful tides.
Poste said his company’s engineers have learned from the mistakes, and the new more robust turbine will survive the power of the tides.
“People are going to be lining the beach; they’ll be watching,” Smith said of the installation of the turbine this fall.
“It is creating some wonderful excitement here after a long winter.”
One thing is for certain: we’ll all be paying for it.
Beyond the federal grants, the electricity poured into the grid by the test turbines being installed in the Minas Channel will have subsidized rates that ultimately are paid by consumers.
The price of that energy, set by the provincial regulator in 2013, ranges from $420 to $575 per megawatt hour. The rates vary based on the type of project, its duration and the amount of electricity it is expected to generate.
In comparison, the marginal cost for coal-fired generation is $60 per megawatt hour and from $70 to $75 for wind.
According to the directions from the Energy Department to the regulator in 2013, the purchasing of subsidized electricity cannot exceed an amount that would drive up the cost to consumers by more than two per cent.
MacKay defended the government funding.
“This type of innovative technology will return its investment quickly and substantially,” he said.
As well, 70 per cent of the OpenHydro turbines are being built in Nova Scotia.
If production ramps up to 300 megawatts, Poste said, it would lead to the creation of 950 direct and indirect jobs from the manufacture of turbines in this province.