Meeting on Bluffs wind farm turns blustery

A public meeting sparked a storm of controversy over a proposed wind study that could result in an offshore wind farm off the Scarborough Bluffs.

Councillor Brian Ashton, representing Scarborough Southwest, thinks that if wind farms are to be truly eco-friendly more thought should be put into their location.

“I think there are people who support environmental sustainability but there are also people who support maintaining the lakefront as a natural reserve,” he said. “I think there are good places for wind farms and I think you have to balance out all the various interests. I’m a NIMBY; I agree – not in Mother Nature’s back yard.”

Toronto Hydro Energy Services plans to install an instrument called an anemometer to measure the speed and direction of the wind about two kilometers off the Scarborough Bluffs. The study is expected to last for two years and will determine the viability of a wind farm in the area.

People who came to discuss the proposal last night packed the auditorium at Wilfred Laurier Collegiate Institute. Originally scheduled for Oct. 27, the meeting had to be postponed due to overcrowding.

Joyce McLean, director of strategic issues for the Toronto Hydro, said there are no concrete plans that go beyond the study phase at the moment. She did, however, say a natural underwater shelf that runs along Bluff’s shoreline would make construction of wind turbines possible.

“The fact that there is an underwater shelf there is really quite critical to where we decided to choose to look,” she said.

The proposed site is about 25 kilometers long and is about two to four kilometers offshore. It stretches about two kilometers from the shoreline at the foot of Woodbine Avenue along the shoreline to Ajax.

Franz Hartmann, the executive director of the Toronto Environmental Alliance, said that if a wind farm is eventually constructed, it will mark a significant environmental milestone for the city.

“(It) will show that Toronto is doing what it can to take serious action to deal with global warming and reducing smog,” he said. “That will be a point of pride that Torontonians from every part of the city can point to.”

Scarborough residents who were against the plan said that wind turbines are an eyesore, a source of noise pollution, negatively impact property values and pose a danger to migratory birds and bats.

Jack Simpson, vice president of generation at the Toronto Hydro Energy Services, stressed that “any wind farm development would be subject to another separate and very comprehensive environmental assessment with a great deal of public consultation and review.”

Vy Hoang, a concerned Scarborough resident with a grassroots group called the Toronto Waterfront Wind Watch, spoke against the study. He is skeptical the energy produced by a wind farm off the Bluffs could offset the costs of installing them or the damage he says will be done to his community and the environment.

He felt that environmental groups co-opted the meeting and drowned out the voices of those residents most impacted by the development.

“Why were bus loads of people brought in and why were people lined up so far back to say ‘yeah, we support this’,” he asked. “They’re not even from the community. This is supposed to be a community meeting. There’s nothing community about it.”

Hartmann, on the other hand, said that the turnout demonstrated the importance of the issue for all people in Toronto.

“(People who) live in Toronto came out today and expressed their opinions,” he said. “That is a healthy, good community where you have people interested in this . . . It shows that Torontonians are very concerned, and very interested . . . this is exactly what we need if we want to deal with global warming.”