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Tapping into 16 lanes of wind energy

By Mark Toljagic
Special to The Sun

It's no secret this summer's soaring temperatures have put a strain on Ontario's power grid, so much so that electricity consumption is being tracked with the same kind of public alarm usually reserved for heavy snowfalls, hurricanes and the Leafs' latest losing streak.

With Ontario relying increasingly on imported electricity to meet peak demand, Centennial College is exploring sustainable electrical generation by erecting an anemometer to measure the viability of turbine generators tapping into the Hwy. 401 "wind tunnel" powered by 16 lanes of high-speed traffic.
Centennial College Environmental Protection Technology students helped erect a 30-metre tower with three anemometers at Progress Campus last week. The instruments, situated next to Hwy. 401, will measure the force and speed of the wind generated by 16 lanes of traffic with an eye to putting up a wind-powered electric generator next summer.

The anemometer -- which measures the force and speed of the wind adjacent to Canada's busiest highway -- was raised on a 30-metre tower last week at the college's Progress Campus in Scarborough. The $25,000 installation was underwritten by Centennial.

Collected data will be used to determine the amount of available wind energy, so that the college and its partners can put up an appropriately sized wind turbine that will feed electricity into the local power grid.

The viability project has been led by Centennial engineering technology students Matt Vonarburg and Dave Clark, whose initial findings were reviewed and approved by Toronto Hydro engineers.

"It's quite a piece of work to undertake on the part of the students," says Centennial professor Michael Gauthier, who accepted the students' initial report as part of his civil engineering design course. "They're right on the leading edge of something pretty big and significant."

The pair, who are studying in the college's three-year Environmental Protection Technology program, have taken on the project as their co-op education assignment. In addition to conducting original research, they are getting paid a decent wage to learn about wind as an alternative energy source.
  • Centennial offers two-year Environmental Protection Technician, three-year Environmental Protection Technology (co-op and non-co-op options), as well as fast-track streams for each.
  • Centennial also offers a joint degree/diploma program with the University of Toronto at Scarborough (UTSC), which provides successful students with an honours BSc and Technologist diploma.
  • All programs provide practical training in the three foundation disciplines of chemistry, biology and civil engineering -- a unique combination of technical skills that greatly enhance career options.
  • Graduates are qualified to write the Ontario Ministry of the Environment Water Quality Analyst Level 1 exam.
  • For more details, visit:

  • Their feasibility study caught the attention of interested groups outside the college, including the government and several private-sector companies. If the data supports it, the tower site will be prepared for the installation of a full-scale wind turbine as early as the summer of 2006.

    The proposed turbine, while not nearly as large as those found at the CNE grounds or at the Pickering nuclear generating facility, will cost between $350,000 and $500,000. The college is talking to potential corporate sponsors, as well as various levels of government, to share in the cost.

    Centennial intends to augment the wind-powered generator with other alternate energy sources, such as solar panels and biofuel electrical generators. All of these technologies are being considered to support a renewabl

    Centennial intends to augment the wind-powered generator with other alternate energy sources, such as solar panels and biofuel electrical generators. All of these technologies are being considered to support a renewable-energy college program that is in development.

    The post-secondary program will deal with the issues facing the electricity generation industry. Students will learn how to install, service and maintain equipment involved with renewable energy technologies, such as wind turbines and photo-voltaic solar panels.

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