Canada’s efforts to better understand the potential for in-stream tidal technology to contribute to clean energy goals continue to move forward.
The Fundy Ocean Research Center for Energy (FORCE) has entered a phase of environmental effects monitoring with a demonstration turbine on site; FORCE’s first interim monitoring report is now available online.
The Environmental Effects Monitoring Program Quarterly Report: January 1 – March 31, 2017 is an interim progress report on mid-field monitoring work ongoing at the FORCE site. The 136-page document contains preliminary insights from third-party researchers; however, conclusions and analysis will require complete annual data sets.
“We have not seen evidence of environmental effects at this point, but it’s too soon to draw any conclusions,” said Tony Wright, general manager of FORCE. “While international research indicates fish and marine mammals generally avoid in-stream tidal turbines, we need time to test those findings here in the Minas Passage.”
FORCE’s monitoring program is being conducted with academic and research partners, including:
- Fish monitoring led by University of Maine
- Marine mammal monitoring led by Sea Mammal Research Unit (SMRU) Consulting (Canada)
- Seabird monitoring led by Envirosphere Consultants Ltd.
- Marine sound monitoring with support from Luna Ocean Consulting Ltd. (LOCL), JASCO Applied Sciences, and Ocean Sonics
- Lobster monitoring led by Nexus Coastal Resource Management
- Additional fish research led by Acadia University
Fish monitoring to date indicates that mean relative fish densities were not different before and after the turbine deployment, in either the FORCE site or the control area near Cape Split. “So far no effect of the turbine has been found, but more sampling is needed to document fish density variation over time and determine any effects,” said Dr. Gayle Zydlewski of the University of Maine’s School of Marine Sciences. “This report includes only the first survey analyzed after deployment; as we collect and analyze more data, a clearer picture will emerge.”
Marine mammal monitoring during an 84-day pre-turbine deployment study indicates a high frequency of harbour porpoise at the site (99 per cent of days), but at low rates (seven minutes per day) and low presence (3.64 per cent of all 10 minute periods). The data also illustrates the high natural variability within the FORCE site. Dr. Dom Tollit, senior research scientist at Sea Mammal Research Unit Consulting (Canada), and colleagues reported: “The raw porpoise detection rates were at times higher in periods of July and August than observed previously in 2011 and 2012, highlighting inter-annual variability at sites within the demonstration area.” Statistical analysis of post-turbine deployment data collected from September 2016 to January 2017 is underway; data collection also continues on site.
Seabird monitoring has included nine shore-based surveys in 2016, with two completed after the turbine was installed. Patrick Stewart, president of Envirosphere Consultants, notes: “Overall the number of birds observed at the site was lower than expected based on earlier baseline surveys, and reflects normal year-to-year patterns of bird abundance unrelated to activity at the FORCE site.”
Marine sound monitoring is underway, with data collected before turbine deployment in October 2016 and post-turbine deployment in March 2017. Data collection will continue; JASCO and Ocean Sonics will complete data analysis later in 2017.
Lobster monitoring is expected to occur in late spring 2017. This research program will measure whether the presence of a turbine affects the number of lobster entering commercial lobster traps. Mr. Chris Milley, adjunct professor at Dalhousie University’s Marine Affairs Program and president of Nexus Coastal Resource Management, said: “The research team will be using commercial lobster traps to compare catch volumes in different proximity to the turbine location. Nexus has received valuable input from local fishers on both program design and timing.
Mr. Wright added: “Our mandate is to share data with both regulators and the public, so any decisions about tidal energy technology can be based on science. We’re also pleased to be able to contribute to the growing body of international research on in-stream tidal technology – Nova Scotia has an opportunity to be a real leader here.”
The interim report can be found on FORCE’s website: https://fundyforce.ca/environment/monitoring/