The energy is there and so is the wire.
All you need to do is catch it and put it in the wire and the province will guarantee you a subsidized rate for 15 years.
But there’s two big caveats on the offer.
First you have clean up the mess left by the last company that tried.
The province is requiring any responders to a call for tenders to take over Berth D at the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy pony up a $4.5 million security for the removal of the 1,300-tonne turbine abandoned at the site.
Another caveat is that you have to figure out how to get the energy out of the water hauled through the Minas Passage by the tide.
So far no one has been successful.
And finally you need to find someone to lend you money to build this machine.
Despite hundreds of millions of dollars in private and government money being spent since Minas Basin Pulp and Power was awarded the contract to lead the development of FORCE in 2008, there has yet to be successful turbine sending power ashore at the site near Parrsboro.
The great promise of instream tidal to harness the estimated 7,000 megawatts of energy propelling the 14-billion tonnes of water back and forth through the Minas Passage remains an expensive dream.
“FORCE is a powerful site and there’s definitely been some learning over past 10 years to move the bar forward,” said Lindsay Bennett, operations manager at FORCE on Thursday.
“Another big milestone will be having an operational turbine at the FORCE site.”
The latest push by the province to get something working at FORCE came a few weeks ago when it extended guarantees on the feed-in tariff, offering companies 53 cents per kilowatt hour for 15 years from the day they start sending power ashore. To put that subsidy in perspective, Nova Scotia Power charges homeowners a base rate of 15.6 cents per kilowatt hour.
“It is a big engineering challenge but it’s also a financial engineering challenge to put together the funding,” said David Stoddart-Scott, strategic projects manager for Sustainable Marine Energy.
His company has been testing turbines from a floating platform in Grand Passage near Digby.
Despite being hit by fishing boat this spring, their platform has been working and the company plans to become FORCE’s first success. They’re in the final stages, he said, of lining up private capital before contracting out the construction of a 420-kilowatt platform they intend to install at FORCE next year. It will ultimately be part of a three platform, 1.6-kilowatt array.
The 15-year guarantee of subsidized electricity is key, said Stoddart-Scott, to instream tidal moving forward.
“That’s why we are in Canada,” he said.
“When you look back to when onshore wind went offshore in the United Kingdom in 2001 it was because they had a feed-in tariff structure that was guaranteed for 15 years. That’s what kicked it off. But they’re not offering anything like that in the United Kingdom for tidal.”
There are five berths at FORCE – Sustainable Marine Energy is teamed up with Minas Tidal LP to create what they hope is eventually a nine-megawatt array on two of them. There are not immediate plans to install turbines at two of the other berths and the final berth is occupied by the 1,300-tonne Cape Sharp Tidal turbine that was placed in the water just days before its Irish parent company, Open Hydro, went bankrupt.
Atlantic Canadian marine service contractors who had helped install the turbine were stiffed for over $6 million.
The Cape Sharp Tidal turbine doesn’t work and the province is offering up the new berth to a company that is willing to pull it out.
But with what – considering the purpose built barge installed it is being sold by creditors – and at what cost remains to be seen.
“You can’t take that out for $5 million,” said Darren Porter, a Hants County weir fisherman and spokesman for the Fundy United Fisherman’s Association.
“It’s just scrap metal full of cement. The only thing worthy money is the power cable maybe. The government has to give them a backdoor bunch of money for something else and they will use that.”
Energy and Mines Minister Derek Mombourquette wasn’t available for comment, but John Dalton was.
“We’re using this process to essentially test the market,” said the consultant hired by the province to run the tendering process for Berth D.
“It is our understanding from discussions with vendors that there is interest in participating.”
Bennett expects FORCE will play a roll in co-ordinating with any company that steps forward with an offer to remove the turbine.
And she confirmed there have been private enquiries about Berth D.
“We’re certainly happy about that,” she said of the tendering process.