Turbine output gone with the wind

by Ian Harvey, Globe and Mail

Toronto’s iconic wind turbine on the edge of Lake Ontario has been brought to a grinding halt by a combination of a bearing failure and, ironically, high winds.

The lazily spinning, three-bladed turbine at the Exhibition grounds has been frozen since mid-March. It’s the latest hiccup for the project which was launched in 2002 when 427 investors raised $800,000 to buy 8,000 shares in the 750-kilowatt generator.

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Windshare, the co-operative which runs the turbine, hopes to get it up and running as soon as the weather co-operates, said president Dianne Saxe.

“The cranes are there, the bearing is there and they’re working on it,” she said adding getting a bearing itself was a challenge. “Every time we’d find a bearing for sale it would be sold. Because of the demand for wind power, demand for these bearings is also high and they sell them as soon as they make them.”

Indeed, the blades were off Wednesday before Thursday’s windstorm hit.

Compounding the issue was the bankruptcy of the Dutch windmill manufacturer, Lagerwey, which rendered the maintenance contract and warranty useless, said Ms. Saxe.

While Windshare’s original investors split dividend payments of $32,000 from the sale of power in 2005, profits since then have been ploughed back into the turbine for maintenance, Ms. Saxe said, adding the bearing replacement will cost $200,000.

“We had no idea how to run it, and, so in 2006, 2007, 2008 there was a lot of downtime, though it was working,” she said. “Then a couple of volunteers took it on themselves to learn how to run it. Thanks to them in 2009 and 2010 it ran at 95 per cent, generating about 1000 megawatts (enough to power 200 homes for a year).”

Still making money from the turbine wasn’t the goal, said Ms. Saxe, an environmental lawyer who drives a hybrid. It is also not part of the Ontario government’s Feed In Tariff program, which subsidizes almost all other wind and solar projects in the province.

“It was built to demonstrate the technology and raise the profile of wind energy,” she said.

Windshare hoped to build a second turbine at Ashbridges Bay and raised $300,000 from investors for that, but discussions with the Toronto Port Authority broke down. In the meantime, it is developing a project in the Bruce Peninsula pending transmission line logistics and is working on a similar concept, Solarshare, to install solar panels on rooftops in Toronto.

23 thoughts on “Turbine output gone with the wind

  1. Awww….so much for the “wind mill” Dalton/Brad photo ops without having to leave downtown Toronto, and at such an unfortunate (pre-election) time, too.

  2. An earlier article in the Star, at http://www.thestar.com/business/companies/article/981648–wind-blows-a-hole-in-turbine-repair-schedule was the mention of how much electricity the 750KW turbine (sized about a third of, for example, Wolfe’s 2300kw turbines) actually generated. In 2008, it ran at 11.9%, 2009 – 16.2%, and 2010 – 14.1%. These numbers are pitiful. No wonder the noise doesn’t bother anybody.

    In 2010, for 927 MW-H their revenues were $58,000, a rate of about $63 per MW-H, roughly twice the Ontario wholesale rate. Even at that above-market rate, the $200,000 for repairs pretty much wipes out the last 3+ years’ revenues.

    I’m trying really hard to understand how this makes any economic sense, to anybody, except the people who built and work on the turbine itself. Except that the builder went bankrupt too.

    I’m happy to hear their goal was not to make money. They certainly have been very good at that.

  3. You can say what you like but in my area, many farmers who were approached by wind salesmen went to Toronto to see the “big ol turbine” and made their decision based on what they saw… and guess what? They all signed up.

    It may not have produced much power but it did what it was supposed to do. It put a turbine within view of the politcians and it gave the Toronto public another symbol to idolize. That’s where the decisions are made and the votes are unfortunately. Very crafty…. 🙁

    • The farmers that went to Toronto to see the “big ol turbine” were in fact being shown a midget turbine compared to what they were actually signing up for.
      I guess that fact never came up at the Tim Horton’s meeting … tell me about it, oh ya, oh ya.

  4. Just a thought …
    If the maintenance issues and costs for the Exhibition turbine are the norm for IWTs that have been up for less than ten years, then two things could happen:
    We the taxpayers may be footing the bill for all these premature repairs … or the proponents may bail and abandon the turbine long before the 20 year lease is up.
    Either way, we all lose…

  5. 2008 ASPO-USA WORLD OIL CONFERENCE,”The Energy Challenge*The Future Starts Now”
    Sept.21-23,2008* Hyatt Regency Sacramento California


    Speakers include:
    Paul Gipe, Wind Energy Expert
    “In 2004, gipe served as the acting executive director of the Ontario Sustainable Energy Association where he created,manged,and implimented a provincial campaign for advanced feed laws into the North American market and was instrumental in placing the European concept on the political agenda in Canada and the United States. The resulting feed laws being hailed as the most progessive renewable energy policy in North America in two decades”

    Paul Gipe has had considerable inflluence in IWT promotion in North America and in advancing the political agend that goes along with this.

  6. So the “toy turbine” at the Ex is an economic joke just like the big ones. Looks good on them for investing in it in the first place.
    1) Coal fired generation with scrubbers on the stacks is far preferable.
    2) Also last time I looked, Niagara Falls was still flowing.
    3) The nuclear generated electricity too is still producing.
    Let’s get this government to stop their game playing with wind and solar priced at ridiculous rates. They are throwing our money at a “science” with no validity.

  7. They really aren’t throwing our money at a “science” they are throwing our money to their friends by the bundles

  8. “Still making money from the turbine wasn’t the goal”, wow, and neither was producing electricity for her hybrid.
    What electrical producer, or business for that matter, doesn’t want to make money? If that wasn’t the goal, then buy a billion pin wheels, just as productive and way more fun. Also a lot less harmful.
    I hope she never makes money from their failed project so we don’t have to pay the inflated prices.
    Instead of spreading her wasteful Industrial Wind Turbine ideology she should consult with those who have had to abandon their properties due to them.
    Good on the Globe an Mail for waking up.

  9. This has been the funniest story here in a loooong time. Diane Saxe can’t find a ‘bearing’ cause she doesn’t have any, or the turbines worldwide are burning through them – the ill-constructed beasts that they are!

  10. Green Power Magazine, Aug.18,2010


    “When a Turbine Grows Up”

    “In 2005,OSEA was commissioned to report to the Ministry of Energy on a feed-in tariff policy for the province”

    This is where Paul Gipe comes into the situation to develope the feed-in tariff policy and resulted in the 2006 legislation that was passed.

    Still not good enough so this lead to the passage of the Ontario GEA in 2009.

    IWTs were resisted in rural areas and this greatly slowed down IWT installation. So local jurisdiction was removed in the GEA to speed up and force IWT installation into rural communities.

    Show the above article to your representatives and let them know that you know how and why the GEA was passed.

  11. “Windshare, the co-operative which runs the turbine, hopes to get it up and running as soon as the weather co-operates, said president Dianne Saxe”

    Oh….Diane Saxe…..It’s amazing how the same names keep coming up in this scam. Over and over again…..criminal…..


    WindShare’s newest project:
    5 wind turbines near Lake Huron. Currently in the final stages of approval

    OH LOOK!! They’re backing a project in Lake Huron!!! Yay investors!! How many more people will you make sick? You should be so proud!
    BERVIE RESIDENTS….LOOK OUT!! “Building on the experience” of erecting one flaccid turbine in Toronto they are coming to your town!!

    Project Description
    The recent announcement of the Ontario Power Authority’s Feed-In Tariff (FIT) program is providing the foundation for TREC to move ahead with ambitious development plans. The Ontario FIT program is the most generous renewable energy support program in North America, providing Ontarian’s with the opportunity to invest in renewable energy.

    Building on the experience from the WindShare co-operative’s Exhibition Place wind turbine project, TREC is developing a 20-megawatt (MW) wind farm project called Lakewind. Located near the Town of Bervie, just east of Kincardine, Ontario, the Lakewind project will be one of the largest co-operatively owned wind power projects in Canada. Pending a successful FIT application, it is expected to be generating power by 2013.

    The project will consist of 10 wind turbines standing 108 metres high, with each of their blades measuring 41 meters in length. TREC has incorporated Lakewind Power Co-operative Inc. to develop and own the project through bonds and equity shares for members looking to invest in local wind energy projects. These securities will be registered through the Financial Services Commission of Ontario and, as a result of the Feed-In Tariff program, will offer competitive rates at a low risk to investors.

    Reducing green house gas emissions to mitigate against climate change – the project will displace up to 14,000 tonnes of Carbon Dioxide annually
    Generating an average of 50,000 megawatt hours of CLEAN ENERGY per year, equivalent to the electricity needs of over 13,000 homes
    Supporting long term job creation and economic prosperity in Ontario by using local labour and hardware
    Offering a viable long-term investment with above average returns
    Keeping profits in Ontario
    Providing tools, templates and other services to assist other groups with their community wind co-op
    Encouraging further dialogue and opportunities for renewable energy education
    As our second wind project evolves, TREC is in a position to assist other community groups with the pursuit of their wind energy co-operatives in Ontario. We are developing the necessary tools, templates and other resources needed to undertake a community wind project. Ask us about how we can help!


    Environmental Education – Ontario College of Teachers


    Meanwhile, Joanna Slezak, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative’s education co-ordinator, has ambitions of her own. Based at the Canadian National Exhibition Grounds (CNE), her school workshops began two years ago by targeting Grade 5s with a wind-energy demonstration featuring a tour of the CNE’s wind turbine, the only one in Toronto. This year, the solar panel exercise was added for Grade 7 and 9 students, a supplement to environmental units in their science and geography curricula.

    “It will be a chance to bring in students from other subject areas and teach more people about sustainability.”

    …As if any student can understand the impact of wind energy from one lousy small and incorrect to scale junk turbine in downtown Toronto.


  12. The Globe & Mail didn’t tell the real story behind the push for IWTS in Ontario. This news story only relates that the turbine in Toronto is not working and the reasons why it is not working.

    Plenty of information has already been gathered to substantiate the Aug.18,2009 story “When A Turbine Grows Up” in Green Power Magazine as to why and how the 2009 GEA was passed.

    To begin with why was OSEA commissioned to prepare a report for the Ministry of Energy on feed-in tariff policy in 2005?

    Who do these people think they are?

  13. “We had no idea how to run it,..”
    I abhor when technical machines are run by amateurs. Electrical production should not be run by incompetent people. Couldn’t imagine a nuclear plant in Ontario being run by someone like that. Can’t believe that they are allowed any land to build industry on. So unqualified.

  14. Perhaps there are some bigger “fish” out of public view involved in installing IWTs in Ontario?

    Just by using Google search some other OSEA founders are:
    Brent Kopperson
    Kevin Best
    Greg Allan
    Ed Hale

    OSEA founded c. 2002

  15. Kevin Best, OSEA & GBREC. See Sky Generation website. http://www.skygeneration.ca/press.html and scroll down to page bottom for complete information.

    Ed Hale, Windpower Engineering, http://windpowerengineering.com/tag/ed-hale
    April 11,2011
    “Windpower Engineering’s-Innovators of Wind Power” Scroll down to Ed Hale

    Greg Allan, Sustainable Strategist,HOK
    See OSEA Community Power Speakers List for 2010. Use Google search.

    Brent Kopperson, Windfall Ecology Centre

  16. “Local solar company fast-tracking into the sun-Not everybody agrees OPA’s pricing change for microfit a bad thing”

    Sunfish Solar,July 13,10 at http://www.sunfishsolar.ca. See Media/Press at the right side of this page for the story.

    Mentions both Kevin Best and Greg Allan as co-founders of OSEA.

  17. Reality: We are paying between 16 to 18 cents per kWh with all the charges and without the 10% rebate, which is only temporary, so far. That is only going higher as we pay those that are trying to make a better economic decision to get paid for their solar power. What about the green solution?
    Reality: They should tell those people putting up solar panels that the power they produce would not run much in their home without maintaining a battery array as even solar power varies too much. Getting power from solar to run your home is more than plugging in a few panels and hoping for sunshine.

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