A city councillor fears Toronto Hydro will ignore his constituents’ concerns over a proposed offshore wind farm in Lake Ontario.
Councillor Brian Ashton represents Ward 36 Scarborough Southwest, which overlooks the potential site two to four kilometres off the Scarborough Bluffs.
“I’m not confident. I think Toronto Hydro will try to barrel ahead regardless of community concerns,” he said.
Toronto Hydro has secured access to a 25-km corridor on crown land between the Leslie Street Spit and Ajax that could eventually house as many as 60 wind turbines.
Overcrowding forced the cancellation of an Oct. 27 meeting to discuss a plan to conduct a wind study in the area. Toronto Hydro wants to install an anemometer, a wind measuring device, in the area to see if a wind farm is feasible.
Joyce McLean, director of strategic issues for Toronto Hydro, emphasized the meeting, rescheduled for Nov. 24, will focus on the study.
“The proposal we have is to site the anemometer,” she said. “The wind farm is a completely different issue. There is no guarantee that it will go ahead.”
But many residents want to use the meeting to express their reservations about the wind farm. Pamela Erickson has joined forces with a number of her Guildwood neighbours to put together a website, savethebluffs.ca.
“The anemometer is just an excuse. They could have just gone down to the yacht club and checked their wind records for the last 15 years and found there’s not enough wind,” she said. “If we all turn out, we can make the meeting about the entire project.”
For Erickson, the wind farm threatens the environmental and historical value of the bluffs.
“We’ve spent 25 years revitalizing the bluffs,” she said. “It doesn’t make sense to throw that all away. It’s such a fragile, beautiful environment.”
Ashton also voiced doubts about the plan. He thinks more consideration should have been given to sites outside the Greater Toronto Area and wants assurances on how the power will be brought ashore.
“Wind is unpredictable – some days it doesn’t blow and the power has to come from somewhere else,” he said. “People tend to think that it will replace nuclear and gas plants, but that’s just not the case.”
Joyce sees the meeting as a chance to address concerns and reassure residents about their plans.
“It’s a conversation with the community,” she said. “I’m looking forward to telling them about the project and giving them all the information they need.”
But Erickson worries the conversation will be one way.
“This is Toronto Hydro’s show – they’re the host,” she said. “We would rather have a community consultation where we get engineers and experts who will tell the other side of the story.”
Erickson expressed disappointment with how news stories have portrayed residents as “Not In My Back Yard” complainers, but hopes the coverage works to their advantage.
“Any publicity is better. No publicity means nobody cares, which is what Toronto Hydro wants,” she said.
“I don’t know if we can win this one, but we’ll give it a good try and I think the meeting will get enough public reaction that Toronto Hydro will at least have to think about it.”
The Toronto Hydro open house takes place on Nov. 24 at Sir Wilfrid Laurier Collegiate Institute at 145 Guildwood Parkway, Toronto. Registration is at 6:15 p.m.