Overview

If in-stream tidal energy development is to grow to larger-scale, it must be environmentally safe and sustainable. FORCE is dedicated to working with many partners to better understand if in-stream tidal technology can play a role in Canada’s energy’s future.

Safety

Ensuring the safety of human and marine life is a critical priority. In-stream devices:

  • Follow a careful installation process, one device at a time
  • Are continuously monitored while under operation, and can be removed if necessary
  • Turn slowly, and allow water to flow freely through and around them (in contrast to a dam)

Scale

Maintaining small, demonstration-scale growth supports environmental safety. A single turbine in the Minas Passage is:

  • Roughly 1/1000th of the cross-sectional surface area of the Minas Passage (i.e. 99.9% of the cross-section is unoccupied)
  • Relative to the Minas Passage sea floor, roughly comparable to a tennis ball on a tennis court
  • Unlikely to present significant environmental effects (sensors will be positioned to detect effects on marine life, if any)

 

International Research
In-stream devices have been installed in a number of locations around the world, including the United Kingdom, France and the Unites States. To date, international research studies have not found a single recorded instance of a collision between marine mammals, fish, turtles or seabirds and a marine in-stream tidal turbine[1]. Findings indicate that:

  • Fish and marine mammals generally avoid turbines[2]
  • Zooplankton passing through a turbine remain unharmed[3]
  • The world’s longest running in-stream turbine – the 1.2 megawatt SeaGen unit in Strangford Lough, Northern Ireland – has had no significant impacts on marine life.[4]

Environmental Monitoring

Since 2009, the Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) has been conducting an environmental effects monitoring program (EEMP) to better understand the natural environment of the Minas Passage and the potential effects of turbines as related to fish, seabirds, marine mammals, lobster, marine noise, benthic habitat and other variables. All documents are available to the public at: http://fundyforce.ca/environment/monitoring/

FORCE’s most recent monitoring program was developed in consultation with SLR Consulting (Canada), and strengthened by review and contributions by national and international experts and scientists, provincial and federal regulators, and FORCE’s environmental monitoring advisory committee (EMAC), which includes representatives from scientific, First Nations, and fishing communities. The EEMP will:

  • monitor the environmental effects of operating turbines
  • focus on five subject areas: lobsters, fish, marine mammals, marine seabirds and marine noise
  • be adaptive, based on monitoring results and input from regulators and EMAC

Fish monitoring measures changes in fish distribution and behaviour, and assesses the probability of fish encountering a turbine.

Marine mammal monitoring detects changes in the distribution of the harbour porpoise in relation to operational in-stream turbines.

Lobster monitoring measures whether the presence of a turbine affects the number of lobster entering traps. Commercial lobster traps are used to compare catch volumes inside and outside the turbine test area.

Marine noise monitoring measures both ambient noise and noise generated by in-stream turbines, for prediction of effects on marine life.

Seabird monitoring captures site-specific species abundance and behavior data to determine whether a turbine displaces seabirds from habitual waters, and to identify any changes in behaviour.

Control

Each technology deployment at FORCE is under regulatory control:

  • Developers are limited under provincial feed-in tariff regulations to a total of 22 megawatts (equal to 2-3 tidal energy conversion devices per developer)
  • Monitoring plans for each developer are reviewed by provincial and federal regulators and EMAC
  • The province may impose additional conditions or order devices removed if necessary

Sensor Program

In 2012, FORCE began the Fundy Advanced Sensor Technology (FAST) program in an effort to enhance environmental data capture in extreme high flow environments.

FAST includes an array of underwater monitoring platforms that can connect to Ocean Networks Canada’s online data management system. The platforms use a variety of onboard sensing equipment to capture data for assessments of:

  • Current speed and turbulence
  • Marine life activity
  • Ambient noise (includes marine species)
  • Water quality

 

[1] Annex IV 2016 State of the Science Report: Environmental Effects of Marine Renewable Energy Development Around the World (2016). Copping, Sather, Hanna, Whiting, Zydlewski, Staines, Gill, Hutchison, O’Hagan, Simas, Bald, Sparling, Wood, and Masden.

[2] In-situ ecological interactions with a deployed tidal energy device; an observational pilot study (2014). Broadhurst, Barr and Orme.

[3] Assessment of Zooplankton Injury and Mortality Associated With Underwater Turbines for Tidal Energy Production

(2013). Schlezinger Taylor, and Howes

[4] SeaGen Environmental Monitoring Programme Final Report (2011) Keenan, Sparling, Williams, and Fortune.