June 06, 2013
Mike Adler, InsideToronto
Anemometer data released
A wind farm could have worked off the Scarborough Bluffs after all, at least according to monthly wind speed measurements Toronto Hydro released this week.
The measurements are from an anemometer the utility installed a kilometre off East Point Park in Lake Ontario.
Built to record wind speeds at a 90-metre height, the device was as hated by many area residents as the idea of an offshore wind farm - up to 60 turbines two to four kilometres into the lake - the anemometer could have supported by gathering data from June 2010 to August 2012.
In February 2011, with a provincial election looming, the Liberal government announced a moratorium on offshore wind projects, but the anemometer kept working on its platform until it was removed last August.
On Wednesday, June 5, Toronto Hydro released a summary of data, checked by York University researchers, which showed average monthly wind speeds of 7.4 metres per second, close to the 7.5 the utility said the Ontario Wind Atlas and satellite images had predicted.
“There is good agreement between the actual wind speeds and the prediction models,” concluded the one-page summary, which included monthly averages from June 2010 through May 2012.
The anemometer, a primary Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) system backed by more conventional vane and propeller instruments, recorded its highest average of 10.4 metres a second in January 2012 and its lowest of 5.6 last May.
Residents and activists believed the utility had no basis for choosing the area and accused it of wasting more than $1 million on the tests, acknowledged Joyce McLean, a Toronto Hydro spokesperson who said the released results are “in the realm of a favourable wind resource.”
Though the utility never launched a proposal or an environmental assessment, McLean said Toronto Hydro believed anticipated speeds of 7.5 metres per second would be good enough to develop a wind project “given all the other factors operating in our favour.”
One of these was the province’s feed-in tariff offer for offshore wind power - 19 cents per kilowatt hour - which was withdrawn as the moratorium was declared.
Having the wind data was only a first step, and didn’t mean the utility would proceed with a project, said McLean, calling the measurements a critical piece of a puzzle “we didn’t get to put together.”
Area residents objected to a possible wind farm for many reasons, citing the possible harm turbines could do to bird and butterfly migration, the seascape and residents’ health.
Scarborough East Councillor Paul Ainslie, who has said it would surprise him if data showed turbines off the Bluffs were viable, tried unsuccessfully to cut the anemometer’s data-collection short, though his fellow councillors on Mayor Rob Ford’s executive committee did not agree.
Ainslie could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
Franz Hartmann, executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance said as long as the moratorium is in place, what the research shows is “purely an academic conversation.”
Hartmann, however, said he believes turbines, if properly sited, are a viable and environmentally friendly power source and added he’d urge the utility and Toronto council to look at siting renewable power generation as close to the city as possible. “Too much is at stake for us not to be investigating that.”
Though the process is long, Toronto Hydro does promote connections to the Toronto grid by small-scale wind and solar projects, and has agreements with the city to install solar panels on the roofs of 10 community centres or arenas, McLean said.
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