Nova Scotia’s tidal energy project is on course, and work is underway to lay power cables in the Minas Passage this fall.  “It’s the final piece of the puzzle,” Matthew Lumley, spokesman for the Fundy Ocean Research Centre for Energy, said in an interview.

“It means that once those cables are laid, any turbine maker anywhere in the world can come and plug their device into that cable end and deliver power to you and I.”  The four cables range from two to three kilometres in length and are about 15 centimetres in diameter, Lumley said.

They have two layers of galvanized steel armour and plastic for protection and contain three copper cords that will conduct the electrical power, plus copper control cables so turbine operators can move and adjust their equipment and 24 fibre optic cables to transmit data from the machine to shore.

Earlier this week, workers began installing connectors to the cables. These “dry mate” connectors will seal and protect the ends of the cables that will remain unused in the water — with tides that were powerful enough to trash a $10-million turbine prototype in 2009 — until the new test turbines are hooked up.

While the first turbine isn’t expected to hit the water until 2015, the power cables mark the end of the centre’s work to make the site ready for four groups of companies — one led by OpenHydro (owned by DCNS Group of France), Black Rock Tidal Power Inc. (owned by Schottel of Germany), the Minas Energy group and the Atlantis Resources Ltd. group — to begin testing their turbines.

An underwater platform will be mounted to the seabed and connected to a three-kilometre subsea data cable that was installed last year. The platform, which contains equipment that will allow researchers to measure conditions in the Minas Passage in real time, is expected to be in place by the end of 2014, Lumley said.

After the power cables and subsea platform are installed, the group will move to Phase 2 of the sensor program with a larger, more robust version of the platform that is recoverable and can be used in other parts of the Bay of Fundy.

The platform will help researchers track environmental conditions and “could be a very important part of understanding where the future potential lies,” Lumley said.