Economics and not engineering will determine the viability of the tidal energy industry in Nova Scotia, says the chief operating officer of the Irish company whose turbine suffered a bashing in the Bay of Fundy last year.

"Offshore wind energy is our true competitor," Open Hydro’s Brendan Corr said Thursday while attending an international tidal symposium in Halifax that was hosted by the province.

The tidal energy sector will advance and bring hundreds of jobs to Nova Scotia if kilowatts can be produced more cheaply than competing wind turbines with there more clearly defined costs, Corr said.

"It’s about effectively managing capital expenditures and generating kilowatts more economically than offshore wind generation," he said.

Symposium participants heard that many important lessons were learned from the deployment of a $10-million turbine in the Bay of Fundy by OpenHydro and its partner Nova Scotia Power.

"The appropriate equipment to build and install turbines does not exist," Corr said. "We have to build it ourselves."

All 12 blades of the one-megawatt test turbine were destroyed after it was deployed offshore near Parrsboro in November 2009. Nova Scotia Power lost contact with the device seven days after it was installed when crucial sensors malfunctioned.

Important engineering lessons were learned from the experimental tidal turbine, which is undergoing repairs at Cherubini Metal Works in Dartmouth, he said. Some of those lessons included how it was designed, deployed and secured to the sea bottom, he said.

The magnitude of some of the players involved and the enormity of the tidal energy undertaking was apparent at the symposium, which brought together experts from around the world to discuss ways and means of accelerating the emerging tidal industry and to discuss opportunities for Nova Scotia businesses.

Three groups are scheduled to deploy test turbines in the Bay of Fundy in 2012, including OpenHydro and Nova Scotia Power, Minas Basin Pulp and Power of Hantsport and partner Marine Current Turbines Ltd., of Bristol, England, and Alstom Hydro of France and its partner Clean Current Power Systems Inc., of Vancouver.

The two-day symposium at the Westin Nova Scotian concludes today and is open to the public.

By BILL POWER
The Halifax Chronicle Herald
Fri, Jul 8, 2011