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Wind study forum too big a hit

As published in the Toronto Star: http://www.thestar.com/News/GTA/article/525684

Meeting cancelled after hundreds crowded out of venue hosting talks on Bluffs turbine project
Oct 28, 2008

JOHN SPEARS
CITY HALL BUREAU

Proposed area of land use permit to allow wind turbines and approximate position of anemometer to test the wind's strength. (Source: Toronto Hydro)

An overcrowded meeting room forced Toronto Hydro officials to cancel an information meeting last night about a proposed wind study in Lake Ontario off the Scarborough shoreline.

Toronto Hydro Energy Services wants to find out if there's enough wind 2 to 4 kilometres offshore to justify planting about 60 big wind turbines in the lake.

Close to 200 people crowded into a meeting room at Christ Church on Markham Rd. to learn about the wind study, which would be needed before a decision is made to proceed with the wind farm.

But another 200 were left on the sidewalk, unable to get into the small meeting hall.

That was enough for local resident Jeanne Gagné, who rose to demand the meeting be rescheduled for a larger hall. Toronto Hydro officials quickly agreed. A time and place will be announced later.

Many who came to the meeting had serious reservations about the proposal. "This is the wrong place," said Roy Wright, who lives in the Scarborough bluffs overlooking the proposed study area.

Wright said the turbines would be equipped with flashing lights to warn ships and aircraft. "It would turn this heritage site into like being on an airport runway 24/7," he said.

Scarborough Councillor Brian Ashton also said he opposes the plan. "I think putting a wind farm off the bluffs is like throwing paint on the Mona Lisa," he said.

But several environmental groups said they support at least the study. "It's extremely important to find out if this is viable from a technical perspective," said Franz Hartmann, who said a wind farm could increase Toronto's quotient of renewable energy.

Jose Etcheverry, an assistant professor at York University's Faculty of Environment Studies, said some critics are being "misled" and don't realize the benefits: "Renewable energy industries could generate thousands and thousands of jobs."

A wind farm this size would be capable of producing 100 to 200 megawatts; 1 megawatt is enough to power about 250 homes.

The turbines being considered would produce 1.5 to 2 megawatts each, more powerful than the 0.75-megawatt turbine at Exhibition Place. They could be sprinkled over a wide area: Toronto Hydro is considering a band of water 25 kilometres long, stretching from Ajax almost to the Leslie Street Spit.

The eastern shoreline was chosen because there's a natural reef on the lake bed that rises to within 10 metres of the water's surface.

The first stage, if approved, is to plant a wind-measuring device, or anemometer, on a platform off the Scarborough Bluffs. Much smaller than a turbine, its platform would rise about 4 metres above the water level – far less than the 30-metre height of a big turbine's blades.

Toronto Hydro will need to collect a year's worth of data to find out whether the site is windy enough to make the project viable.

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