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How You Can Make Choices That Treat the Earth Well

Windshare Energy Co-operative (TREC)

Choosing Renewable Energy, reducing CO2: Citizen participation in generating Green Power www.windshare.ca

Renewable energy such as wind power is the way forward.

David Suzuki

Citizens Thinking Green

Citizens can help to change the way energy is produced. They can play an active role in moving energy production towards a more environmentally-friendly direction. In Ontario, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative, or TREC, has successfully paved the way for citizen participation in green energy generation.

TREC began in 1997 as part of a neighbourhood community group, the North Toronto Green Community. They decided to take on the role of pioneering a community-based “green power movement.” The TREC founders knew that increasing the use of renewable energy sources such as wind and sun could significantly help to reduce harmful emissions into our atmosphere. They also knew that in an urban setting such as Toronto, working to bring about a transition to renewable energy use offered the double benefit of a lessening of greenhouse gas emissions, and making cleaner, healthier air to breathe.

TREC called their co-operative wind power project WindShare. The proof of their success is the stately new wind turbine that stands on the Toronto waterfront near the Canadian National Exhibition (The “Ex”). Standing beside Lake Ontario and the highways that lead to downtown Toronto, TREC’s wind turbine is a highly visible symbol of a new era of power generation for a new century. A second one will soon be built at Ashbridges Bay, farther east on Toronto’s waterfront. TREC’s wind turbine was supplied by Lagerwey Windturbine International B.V., a Dutch-based manufacturer. The three-bladed Lagerwey wind turbine, with a 750 kW gearless generator, is capable of producing 1,800-megawatt hours of energy per year, enough power for 250 homes.

TREC, Leading by Example

As a successful leader in generating green energy, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative has a three-fold mandate:

  1. Policy change to favour more renewable energy. TREC advocates for progressive renewable energy policy at all levels of government
  2. Public education on the benefits of renewable energy, community-based green power solutions, and the real costs of fossil fuel energy generation that contribute to climate change and smog
  3. The development of real, on the ground, community-focused green power projects

TREC’s first project, the WindShare Co-operative, was established to own and operate two wind turbines on the Toronto waterfront. It is carried out as a 50/50 partnership with Toronto Hydro, the local power utility. WindShare is a membership cooperative, and shareholders are entitled to vote in the governance of the organization. All members, regardless of the number of shares they hold in the corporation, are entitled to one vote at meetings, to keep member voices equal. Becoming a member of WindShare requires the purchase of a $1 membership, and a minimum of five $100 turbine shares, or $500.

Some Traditional Energy Facts

Ontario’s Energy Mix
  • Nuclear energy 39%
  • Water Power (hydroelectric) 27%
  • Coal & Oil 26%
  • Natural Gas 06%
  • Renewables 02%

Burning fossil fuels has been a primary source of electricity generation in North America for the past 100 years (hydroelectric and more recently nuclear power are also very important in Canada)

  • Making electricity is the number one cause of air pollution in North America
  • Air pollution kills 30,000 people in North America each year and contributes to health problems for many more
  • Burning fossil fuels for energy generation releases greenhouse gases (e.g., carbon dioxide, the leading gas contributing to global warming)
  • Other pollutants from burning are released into air, soil and water, damaging the environment (e.g., sulphur dioxide which causes acid rain; nitrogen oxides which harm fish and plants)
  • Air pollution contributes to lung diseases such as asthma

Some Renewable Energy Facts

  • Electricity is produced by a windmill when the wind turns its large blades, which turn a shaft that spins a generator, producing an electrical current no pollution is produced with this method of energy production.
  • WindShare’s wind turbine is estimated to displace, each year
    • 1,800 tonnes of carbon dioxide (CO2)
    • 8,400 kilograms of sulphur dioxide (SO2)
    • 5,600 kilograms of nitrous oxide (the main ingredient in acid rain and smog)
  • The “green electricity” obtained (i.e., non-fuel combusting or CO2 releasing) from TREC’s 2 wind turbines will be equivalent to the benefit obtained by 400,000 medium sized trees sequestering carbon dioxide. For comparison, replacement of the power generated by the Ontario’s Lakeview Generating Station (which burns coal) would require in the order of 1,000 wind turbines.
  • Clean wind energy is the fastest-growing source of energy in the world. Since 1990 wind energy has increased at an average rate of 25% per year, due to improvements in wind power technology.
  • The European Wind Energy Association and Greenpeace carried out a joint assessment of global wind resources, called Wind Force 12. This study concluded that the world’s wind-generating potential÷if only 10 percent of the earth’s land area was available for development÷is double the projected world electricity demand in 2020.
  • Denmark leads the world in the share of its electricity from wind÷at nearly 20 percent.
  • In terms of most wind generating capacity, Germany leads with 12,000 megawatts (4%)
  • About 80% of all wind turbines sold worldwide are manufactured by European companies.

Looking Ahead

Power demand in Ontario continues to grow. The cost of generating electricity is becoming more costly. As Ontario looks ahead to make decisions about supplying adequate energy resources for the future, two clear new ideas have come to the forefront:

  1. a well-designed and supported energy conservation program
  2. the potential of new renewable energy sources

In 2004, the Ontario government is working to create a new Ontario Power Authority (OPA) which will include an agency dedicated to creating a “conservation culture.” Using energy more efficiently is far less expensive than building new energy-generating facilities. The provincial government will work with utilities (the companies that generate power), industry and the public to move Ontario towards becoming an energy-conserving society. They have created an energy Conservation Action Team (CAT) to plan conservation measures for all Ontarians.

On the renewable energy front, Ontario (unlike Germany) does not yet have any formal legislation promoting the development and growth of renewable energy. It does not yet invest in financial incentive programs to encourage people use clean, non-polluting renewable energy. It does not yet allow independent energy generators (like people with solar panels on their roofs, or windmills on their property) to sell excess power to their local utilities. It has, however, for the first time set targets for the addition of a renewable energy sector to Ontario’s energy mix (2004).

Public demand for clean, sustainable, non-polluting energy generation will help to make this new environmentally-friendly market grow.


Ontario Ministry of Energy Wind Energy Sheet

Canadian Wind Energy Association (CANwea) – The Canadian Wind Energy Association supports the appropriate development of wind energy in Canada. Their goal is to encourage investment in wind energy for 10,000 MW by 2010, providing 5% of Canada’s electricity.

Ontario Could Get 10% of its Energy From Wind Ontario Sustainable Energy Association – A good article from a wind expert.



  1. TREC or the Toronto Renewable Energy Cooperative believes that citizens can change the way energy is produced. Explain what the project Windshare has accomplished.
  2. Ontario’s energy is produced from several different sources. List these sources and state one advantage and one disadvantage for each source.
  3. The demand for energy in Ontario continues to increase all the time.
    a) What is the maximum limit of kilowatts the province can now produce at one time?
    b) How does Ontario meet demands for more than the maximum it produces?
    c) Describe 2 ways that are being considered to meet future energy demands.