Opinion, Saturday, November 27, 2010, p. A15
Province Must Turn the Tide on Resource Development
by Richard Sanders
The current approach to
tidal power development in Nova Scotia should be abandoned because it is both unsuccessful and unlikely to become successful
in the future.
regard to the current lack of success, the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy (FORCE), which is leading the tidal power
initiative in Nova Scotia, has already made three obvious errors.
First, FORCE oversaw the deployment of a $10-million, 400-tonne prototype tidal electricity device in
the inadequately characterized waters of the Minas Passage. Minimal characterization of this, Nova Scotia's premier tidal
resource, would include an annual census of the animate and inanimate sub-surface traffic. However, on Nov. 12, 2009, the
OpenHydro prototype tidal electricity device was deployed without knowledge of the annual sub-marine traffic at any site in
the Minas Passage, including the OpenHydro installation site.
The failure to adequately characterize the tidal resource prior to device deployment may have had almost
immediate consequences. Communication with the deployed device was lost within days of submersion. Further, upon video examination
in the spring of 2010, the device was seen to have sustained damage - quite possibly by contact with submerged ice or the
18-metre right whale beached in the Inner Bay last spring.
The second failure of the FORCE was to deploy a $10-million, 400-tonne instrument with no method of access
for repair. As a consequence, this device must be retrieved for forensic examination and repair.
The third failure of the FORCE was to deploy
a tidal device which cannot readily be retrieved. The recent failed attempt to salvage the damaged OpenHydro device conjures
images of rusting submarine junk in the Minas Passage.
To recapitulate, deployment of a $10-million device into inadequately characterized waters seems a reckless
expenditure of public money. And installation of expensive equipment with no means of in situ repair or ready retrieval is
at a variance with both common sense and basic engineering logic.
With regard to the future, the current approach to tidal power development in Nova Scotia is not likely
to become successful for at least three reasons.
First, this approach is too reliant on secrecy. For example, data concerning the oceanography of the
Minas Passage, which were generated using public money, were neither peer-reviewed and published in the scientific literature
nor made available for public inspection in their non-peer-reviewed state prior to being used by FORCE to reach its decision
to deploy a prototype tidal turbine. Hence, the public of Nova Scotia, which supports the province's tidal initiative through
taxes and electricity costs, lacked the information to properly evaluate (or to contribute corrective insight into) FORCE's
decision to deploy a prototype in 2009.
Second, the tidal electricity initiative is led by members of an economic oligarchy in Nova Scotia, whose
mutual and individual interests may conflict with the interests of the people of Nova Scotia. Three of the four directors
of FORCE are either from private-sector corporations or academia. Companies are profit-driven and academics require research
inspection of the FORCE website reveals that the leaders of the tidal electricity initiative are enmeshed in complex patterns
of conflicted interest. For example, NSPI has employees on both the FORCE board and the environmental committee monitoring
FORCE. Further, the academic member of the board of FORCE co-chairs the environmental committee monitoring FORCE. And the
chair of the board of FORCE holds a senior position at one of the private-sector companies currently seeking to test a tidal
electricity device at FORCE's facility.
The current dysfunctional, secretive and conflicted approach to tidal power development in Nova Scotia
should be replaced with provincial control of the tidal resource. Elected officials and senior civil servants should make
all significant decisions and be held accountable, thereby decreasing the influence of Nova Scotia's economic oligarchs and
increasing the likelihood of protecting the public's interests.
Sanders runs Sanders Resource Management, Inc. in Halifax.
A tug pulls
the barge OpenHyrdo Installer away from its position in the Minas Basin on Monday, Nov. 15. The barge failed in its attempt
to lift an undersea tidal turbine which has not been operational since being set in position a year ago. (Peter Parsons /
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