Toronto Deputy Mayor Doug Holyday is calling for a review of the Toronto Atmospheric Fund, whose latest initiatives include investing $500,000 in a Lake Simcoe wind park.
The 20-year-old fund, bankrolled with $23 million from the sale of city-owned land, will help build 10 community-scale wind turbines, generating 20 megawatts of power, on Georgina Island, about an hour’s drive north of the city.
The fund’s board of management, consisting of four city councillors and seven citizen members, approved the investment at its meeting earlier this month.
The fund’s decisions don’t have to be ratified by city council. Holyday thinks council should have the final say.
“I’d like to talk to the mayor about it,” Holyday said. “If he’s in agreement, then perhaps we can take something to council and let’s have the auditor or someone do a report on it and let’s determine where we’re going.”
Councillor Shelley Carroll, who chairs the fund, said it operates at arm’s length from the city and is able to make investments that council couldn’t touch.
“The difference is, the city is and must be risk-averse,” Carroll said. “The Toronto Atmospheric Fund, once they’ve taken it through the science experts, can take some risks.”
The Georgina Island venture, to be completed in about a year, may provide valuable lessons on how to set up a similar facility closer to the city, Carroll said.
“We may get to the point where we have to use wind energy much closer to cities, such as they do in Europe. You want to be able to say you’ve studied all the things in a remote area that may be a concern in a less remote area.”
Holyday said he has a hard time understanding the potential payback for Torontonians.
“I just don’t see the benefits to the citizens of Toronto to be sending $500,000 up to Georgina Island. I would have thought there would be more direct projects right in the city,” he said.
If the wind turbine investment were put to city council, it might not be approved, he added.
“It’s not that there aren’t benefits. There are. It’s just a question of whether the benefits to the citizens of Toronto are worth the money we’re putting up.
“There’s a lot of money in that fund and it may well be that we could use that money for other things, so I think a review of TAF is in order.”
The Toronto Environmental Alliance, which has pushed council to adopt a green agenda, can’t comment on the wind farm funding because the alliance itself receives funding from the Atmospheric Fund.
“In general, we think wind turbines are a very important part of the green energy future in Toronto and Ontario,” said Franz Hartmann, executive director of the environmental alliance.
“In comparison to non-renewable energy sources, wind power is extraordinarily good,” Hartmann said. “We have to have a diverse system. We have to have wind power, solar, geothermal.”
The Atmospheric Fund was the brainchild of the former city of Toronto in pre-amalgamation days. The city sold off its Langstaff Jail Farm at Yonge St. and Highway 7 to developers and plunked down part of the proceeds – $23 million – to set up TAF.