Toronto Windshare Coop
WindShare Co-op, located at Toronto’s Exhibition Place, is North America’s first urban-sited wind turbine. It is also Ontario’s first community-owned wind power project.
WindShare was developed in 1999 when the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-op (TREC) received a grant from the municipality to explore three potential sites for the creation of a wind turbine project in the Greater Toronto Area. The Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative is a non-profit, environmental co-op that develops community-owned renewable energy projects and educates Ontarians about renewable energy, energy conservation and the community power model. TREC took its inspiration from Denmark where three quarters of the country’s annual energy production is privately owned, with 50% being run by community power co-operatives. The WindShare ExPlace turbine was TREC’s debut project.
In 2002, TREC identified Exhibition Place as a viable location for a wind turbine and within four months, 427 pioneer members had invested an average amount of $2,000 each in support of the Exhibition Place turbine. By the second day of the turbine’s construction WindShare membership was fully subscribed and the $800,000 capital investment target had been reached. The total cost for the construction and installation of the turbine in 2001 was 1.8 million. Remarkably, even after the capital needs of the turbine had been met, community investment continued. Over 250,000 in additional investment capital has been placed in trust to develop additional community wind projects.
The ExPlace turbine generates an average of 1,000-megawatt hours per year and meets the electricity needs of 200 homes. The turbine production capacity helps displace up to 380 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually – this is the equivalent of taking 1,3000 cars off the road or planting 30,000 trees each year. With the exception of the converter at the base of the turbine all the parts, including the tower and blades, are manufactured in Ontario.
WindShare is a separately incorporated for-profit co-op with the ExPlace turbine being jointly owned by WindShare Co-op and Toronto Hydro Energy Services, a wholly owned affiliate of Toronto Hydro Corporation, which is owned in turn by the municipality. All costs of maintenance and operation as well as revenues are shared 50/50 between the two partners. From the beginning, the City of Toronto and Toronto Hydro were champions of the idea and without municipal support the demonstration project might never have gotten off the ground. This municipal support continues to this day and is reflected in the strong working partnership between the City and the co-op and formalized in a technical committee composed of three representatives form each of the two entities.
In addition to providing clean energy at a neighborhood level, WindShare's mission is to demonstrate leadership and action in the community wind power sector, and to develop community power projects that are sustainable economically, environmentally, and socially. WindShare Co-op provides an alternative to large, centralized energy generation with the development of local, profitable and inclusive community power projects.
Currently, TREC is in the final approval stages of building Lakewind Power Project, North America’s first community-owned wind farm, with five turbines providing 100% wind power to 13,000 homes. The project will be located near the shores of Lake Huron. Another TREC project is SolarShare Co-op. In development for two years, SolarShare will build multiple rooftop and ground mount solar- electric projects of up to 250kW in size, which it will finance, develop, maintain and operate. All Ontarians will be able to invest in the SolarShare projects.
Membership and Investment
Membership in WindShare Co-op grants members part ownership of the ExPlace turbine and also provides a source of investment in WindShare’s community power projects, including the Lakewinds Power Project. WindShare has three classes of membership: individual, institutional, and investors. In addition to the benefit that members receive through their dividends, co-op members receive additional savings through the Ontario Power Authority's Feed-In Tariff program, the most aggressive renewable energy support program in North America. The program pays WindShare an above-market rate for its power, including an additional price adder for being a community-owned project.
As a co-op, WindShare’s annual dividends are recommended by its elected board of directors and approved by the co-op’s membership at its annual general meeting.
Investor returns for the proposed Lakewinds Power Project are projected at over 7% over a 12-year payback period. SolarShare Co-op projects are forecasted to bring up to 8% return on investments. Both represent a strong rate of return for social investment projects."
- Report: The Co-operative City. Social and economic tools for sustainability. John Restakis. BC Co-operative Association, June 2011