If a Toronto community group gets its way, Ontarians could soon be tilting at windmills. The Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative, or TREC, has formed a most unlikely alliance with North America’s largest municipal electrical utility, Toronto Hydro, to build up to three large modern windmills on the waterfront of Canada’s biggest city.
The project was founded by a community-based environmental group in North Toronto whose biggest projects at the time were ‘Walking School Bus’ and residential pesticide awareness programs. The group was frustrated with the lack of action on climate change and air quality— a pressing seasonal problem in Smogtown. Big government and big business seemed to be well behind public sentiment on these critical issues of public and terrestrial health.
With a small grant from the City’s own ‘Toronto Atmospheric Fund’, they built a blueprint for what has become the country’s first green power co-op. Back then, project founders could never have envisioned the scale the project has taken on, and the length of time it would take to raise their three-bladed standard.
Almost three years later, the project has become a joint venture with Toronto Hydro, and late in October received approval in principle from Toronto’s City Council to site the green machines on City land.
“We wanted the turbines to be on City lands so that all Torontonians could have a sense of ownership in the project.” says TREC’s General Manager Bryan Young. Young has been with the project since its inception.
“Climate change and smog are problems we all must take responsibility for, and putting this project on public lands will allow people to become familiar with a technology that could go a long way to help us address the crisis of greenhouse gas and other emissions spewing from coal-fired power plants every day,” Young went on to say.
Toronto has been the country’s most proactive city when it comes to municipal CO2 abatement strategies. On October 28th, the City announced it was joining a New York State lawsuit against coal-fired power producers. Could similar actions against Ontario Power Generation be far behind?
For now, Young and a hard-working cadre of volunteers and Directors are working with Toronto Hydro to make homegrown green power a reality for the summer of 2000.
TREC’s side of the joint venture will be funded by direct investment by residents, companies and institutions who are already Toronto Hydro subscribers. Members who join TREC will purchase $500 increments of the turbine, and in return will get an ‘energy credit’ deducted from their utility bill. The amount of reduction will vary on the amount of wind energy in a given period and the amount each of the members invests. People connected to Science for Peace have signed up.
TREC has big plans after this project. “We’re taking the show on the road,” the ebullient Young says. The Federal Government has committed close to $450,000 in loans, grants and Memberships for some of its Toronto properties. “Some of this money will be used to tell the Co-op’s story and sow the seeds of community green power across the country,” says Young.
“We’ve all got to act to do something about this crisis, and if TREC can get its own little recipe out to Canadians, we will have helped.” Already, the Co-op has begun dispensing advice to several groups around Ontario and across the country looking to give monopoly based brown power some competition. Windmill co-ops are very popular in Denmark, and are credited with developing the country’s wind turbine manufacturing industry, now their biggest export.
TREC has spun off its first initiative as a separate Co-op and will go on to help promote other projects once its waterfront windmills begin spinning next year.