Windmills -- FAQs

Why are we building windmills?

We need renewable, clean, green, energy sources in Ontario. The major alternatives, when it comes to expanding generation, are fossil fuels and nuclear power.  Wind is a major source of power in other countries and could be here in Ontario.

What is Toronto Hydro actually proposing to do?

Toronto Hydro is interested in exploring the possibility of installing windmills in Lake Ontario, roughly 2 km offshore. The first step is to determine whether there is enough wind speed in Lake Ontario to justify developing an actual proposal for windmills in the lake.

That’s why Toronto Hydro is proposing to install a wind measuring device, called an anemometer, in Lake Ontario for two years. First, they must get permission from the Ontario Government to install the anemometer. As part of this permission process, Toronto Hydro is consulting with Torontonians.

If the Ontario Government gives Toronto Hydro permission to install the anemometer, we will likely know in 2 years whether they will develop an actual proposal for windmills in the lake.

Why is Toronto Hydro testing wind speeds in Lake Ontario?

Toronto Hydro is responding to the huge public interest in renewable power and wants to determine whether windmills in Lake Ontario are an option for Torontonians.

In July 2007, Toronto City Council adopted a smog and climate change plan with aggressive goals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30% by 2020 and smog emissions by 20% by 2012. Wind power will likely play an important role in meeting these targets.

As well, the Province of Ontario has signaled it wants new developments of renewable energy.

Put simply, Toronto Hydro is taking the steps required to build renewable power for Torontonians.

What is an anemometer?

It measures wind speed and direction. The plan is to install the anemometer on a structure that is anchored into the lakebed, roughly 2 to 4 km off shore from the Scarborough Bluffs.  About 12 metres of the steel structure will be under water and 4 metres will be above water.

If Toronto Hydro gets permission to install the anemometer, doesn’t this mean they have permission to build windmills in the lake?

No. If Toronto Hydro decides to proceed with developing a plan to install windmills in Lake Ontario, the potential plan would be subject to a full Environmental Assessment process that includes significant public consultation and input.

But before any such plan can be developed, Toronto Hydro would have to know that there is enough wind available to make the project economically viable.

As well, once the potential plan is made public, it is subject to an environmental assessment, which it may or may not pass.

So, if windmills are ever built in the lake, it will only be after an extensive environmental assessment and public review.

Why Scarborough, aren’t there better places for windmills?

Windmills are best situated in places where there is lots of wind. Typically, large bodies of water provide excellent wind. For Toronto, Lake Ontario is the most likely candidate for siting windmills and the east side of the city has a wide expanse of open water, a better angle to the shoreline, and a well located shoal that makes a good base for the windmills. The anemometer test would determine whether wind speeds are sufficient to warrant developing an actual plan to put windmills in the lake.

Why are so many environmental groups supporting Toronto Hydro’s proposal for a wind anemometer?

Because it makes sense to get information about wind speeds to determine whether windmills in the lake are an option for Toronto.

Won’t windmills kills birds?

Windmills are not a significant threat to birds. Studies show the average cat kills 15 times as many birds per year as a windmill. Windmills are nowhere near the threat to birds that tall buildings are, so it would make more sense to oppose condos and office towers than windmills.

Won’t windmills harm property values?

Studies show that windmills have little or no effect on property, save to occasionally increasing values near wind farms. Even the US National Association of Realtors recognizes windmills don’t harm property values.

Won’t windmills destroy the natural beauty of the bluffs?

The proposal is to test whether there is enough wind to establish windmills 2 kilometers out into the lake. That is considerable distance from the bluffs and will not have a big impact on how they look. Also most people find the curve of white windmills an attractive feature in the places where they have been located. Finally, the threat of global warming will do the bluffs a lot more harm than the wind power that will help to prevent it.

Won’t windmills make noise and disturb the local community?

Windmills located two kilometers off the bluffs will not be audible to a person in Scarborough. On still days, where sound carries farthest, the windmills make no noise, on windy days the noise they make can’t be heard over the wind two kilometers away.

Aren’t there health effects from windmills?

There is no solid scientific evidence supporting the idea that vibrations or “infrasound” from windmills has harmed people. Even people who do claim it does also acknowledge that the vibrations they talk about have a limited range. The windmills being considered would be too far away for any such impacts.

Wind Power Jobs

How many jobs will wind power really create?

Pennsylvania converted defunct steel mills into windmill factories creating 1,400 new jobs.

The energy efficiency industry in the US has revenues of over $1 trillion

Wind power alone accounts for 36,000 jobs in the U.S., 21,000 jobs in Denmark and 82,000 jobs in Germany.

Wind energy is the largest customer of the German steel industry after car manufacturing.

The Worldwatch Institute predicts that by 2020 there will be two million jobs in wind power world wide