We need the wind at our backs
The province floated a draft rule last week that windmills need to be more than five kilometres offshore. Frankly, that would sink the proposed Scarborough wind energy project to the bottom of Lake Ontario. Probably other offshore wind projects too. This is not good news for a City that generates less than 2% of its own power and is completely dependent on two long-distance transmission lines to get electricity into its boundaries.
No environmental or health justifications were given for this arbitrary line in the water other than citing possible noise concerns. It is hard to imagine what would be heard from windmills over a kilometre from the shore, or that that they’d be anywhere near the decibels of a lawnmower, leaf blower, air conditioner, speakers, etc -- all perfectly healthy noise sources apparently.
A five kilometre buffer makes little sense here. This is an urban environment, not the middle of Algonquin Park. If we can live cheek-by-jowl with multi-storey buildings and transportation corridors, we can find a way to accommodate wind turbines a kilometre or more offshore. And no one is against careful and responsible the planning and placement of turbines.
The concerns against even putting a wind speed measurement device have to be considered in context. To do anything meaningful to stop accelerating climate change – which unchecked will cause ever-more powerful storms that could pound the Scarborough Bluffs into a new set of offshore islands -- some significant changes are needed around here, and fast. Sticking our heads in the sand is not the answer, nor is drawing simplistic lines on a map.
Toronto’s “Power to Live Green” strategy for reducing global warming pollution requires boosting home-grown renewable energy generation in our city (and definitely not building a third mega-transmission line into the city through neighbourhoods and ravines). In tandem, the strategy also foresees attracting local economic activity and stimulating good green jobs and tax base in our city, facilitated by the Green Energy Act. Not much of a pitch if we can’t even get a few turbines spinning on our own waterfront.
Opponents of wind energy seem to resent the sight of wind turbines to feed Toronto’s appetite for power, but they also oppose the city’s efforts to take some responsibility for its own power needs. It’s not a very coherent or sustainable response to reducing our city’s enormous climate footprint. Arbitrarily cutting off the opportunity for significant offshore wind generation is going to make the job much harder. It’s time for candidates for Council and Mayor to make a stand on this issue.