Wind Power in Toronto Gets Environmental Clearance

A 20 month environmental assessment by the government of Canada has determined that the adverse effects of up to three small wind turbines near downtown Toronto are “not likely significant.”

TORONTO, Ontario – Environment Canada launched the review under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act (CEAA) to determine if the wind power project proposed by the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative (TREC) would cause significant adverse environmental effects. The assessment started in April 1999 and was rendered last week. To proceed with its project, TREC must take into account mitigation measures that relate to the construction and operation of the wind turbine, as well as conditions specific to noise and bird concerns. These conditions were imposed following public consultation, as well as scientific and technical analyses by the government agency. The CEAA is federal legislation that defines responsibilities and procedures for the environmental assessment of projects involving the Government of Canada. The Act establishes a clear and balanced process that helps responsible authorities determine the environmental effects of development projects early in their planning stage. TREC wants to construct up to three utility-scale wind turbines on the waterfront of Toronto, with each 93 m turbine generating 1,400 MWh of electricity each year and offseting 1,400 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions. The desired sites were used for construction debris, but the harbour provides productive habitat for a variety of fish species and hosts large numbers of colonial nesting birds, waterfowl and seasonally migrating birds. To mitigate any potential adverse effects from noise, Environment Canada will require TREC to purchase turbines that meet maximum rated noise specifications and will require a noise assessment to be conducted after the units are installed. “Since the Toronto waterfront is unique and has an extrememly rich bird life, it is necessary to monitor the turbine operations for any associated bird mortality and disturbance,” says the final report. “In the event that there are considerable bird impacts, a mechanism to remedy the situation must be in place.” TREC must pay a monitoring company to determine bird mortality and disturbance for at least one full year, and the findings must be readily available to the public. If there is any impact on birds, even the common or abundant species on the waterfront, the government can order a shutdown of the facility. The turbine must be designed to survive wind gusts of 200 km/hour, and warning signs must be posted to warn the public of ice shedding. The TREC Windpower Co-operative has promoted the wind sites with Toronto Hydro Energy Services (THES). Output is sold to members of the Co-op, who obtain a credit for the green power which is applied to their THES monthly bill. A minimum investment of $500 is required to join the Co-op. Each turbine will cost $1.2 million, but a federal climate change program will contribute $330,000 to install the first unit. Environment Canada will pay $100,000 to TREC for green energy to power its offices and laboratories in Toronto.

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