Tidal developer promises N.S. better and cheaper turbine

Source: The Chronicle Herald




Ross Sinclaire, founder and president of Jupiter Hydro Inc., said Thursday he is developing a turbine that will be cheaper and easier to build and operate than other devices in the works for a Parrsboro-area test site.

“That resource in the Bay of Fundy is huge, and we know how to make it work,” Sinclaire said in a telephone interview.

The budding developer launched the tidal project three years ago after selling his mechanical contracting company and retiring. A plumber and gas fitter by trade, Sinclaire said he redesigned numerous piping systems during his 33 years in the industry to make them better and less costly.

He also patented a plumbing system that is used in 10 highrise buildings in the western city.

Now Sinclaire is working on a 1.3-megawatt turbine that is vastly different than most other types of tidal technology.

Jupiter Hydro’s machine floats on top of the water and has screw-shaped shafts that turn below the surface, like an auger, to generate electricity.

In contrast, most other tidal devices operate underwater and have windmill-type blades.

The Calgary developer said he is planning to apply for a berth at the test site overseen by the non-profit group Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy.

The deadline for submitting a bid to the province is Sept. 30.

Sinclaire said he hopes his turbine will be selected because his technology will cost $2 million per megawatt. Underwater machines typically cost $10 million to $15 million, he said.

“This thing is so damn simple, there’s really very little to prove. If I got the go-ahead today, I’d have it in the water before Christmas.”

Sinclaire’s turbine is 42 metres long and 13.5 metres wide and looks like a barge anchored by cables. Made of steel pipe that is 1.8 metres in diameter, the structure holds two generators covered by a waterproof enclosure.

Below the water are two pairs of screws, with each shaft being 10.8 metres long, 3.15 metres wide and made of composite material.

Sinclaire said his turbine is less likely to be damaged by debris than other underwater machines because the screws are made in segments.

“Ours are small pieces, 22 pieces to one of our screws, whereas theirs are big blades that are, quite honestly, suspect to getting hit and destroyed.”

The device is also easier to maintain and repair because the shafts can by lifted hydraulically and fixed while the turbine stays in place, he said.

Besides his interest in the Bay of Fundy, Sinclaire is also eyeing possible projects in British Columbia and Alaska.

While he is upbeat about the technology he has developed, based on preliminary testing, Sinclaire admits it has been a challenge to find major investors.

“We’ve managed to do every-thing we’ve done so far on a very tight budget.”

The Jupiter Hydro founder said he has met with Energy Department officials and also talked to FORCE about his technology.

The tidal upstart said there is a developer in Norway, Flumill AS, that has screw-type technology, although its turbine is anchored to the seabed.

Sinclaire has hired engineering researchers at the University of Calgary to help prove his tidal project. He also hired an Ottawa engineering firm to prepare a report last fall to compare his device with others planned for the Bay of Fundy.

He said he hasn’t named his patented technology yet. But a friend has dubbed the auger-like design the Canada Screw, saying he hopes it becomes as widely known as the Canadarm.