A new landmark joined the Toronto skyline in 2002: a 91-metre wind turbine, the first to be installed in a major North American urban city centre and the first community-owned wind power project in Ontario.

The ExPlace wind turbine is co-owned by the WindShare cooperative, a project developed by TREC, the Toronto Renewable Energy Co-operative. Founded in 1998, the Toronto-based non-profit environmental cooperative started the community power movement in Ontario with WindShare and has since become a recognized leader in the renewable energy sector, with a family of organizations that enable active citizen participation in developing and owning community power projects and provide valuable education about renewable energy.

One of the divisions, TREC Services, supports community power project development and builds capacity throughout the sector. By offering templates, tools, administrative services and resources, TREC Services enables emerging community power groups and renewable energy co-operatives to overcome legal, financial and business barriers to their projects. The services reflect TREC’s unique insights and experience in developing and sustaining successful renewable energy co-operatives.

These include WindShare, which with almost 500 members pioneered the community power movement in Ontario when it was founded in 2002. TREC provides on-going member and administrative services to WindShare. In 2010, SolarShare was created to develop community-invested solar energy projects. To date SolarShare has 18 solar PV sites, including North America’s largest community-financed solar rooftop installation. Through SolarShare’s cooperative model, Ontario residents can invest in Community Solar Bonds that deliver “triple bottom line” returns, creating economic, social and environmental benefits. TREC provides on-going project development as well as member and administrative services to SolarShare. And finally LakeWind is a development proposed for the Kincardine area, a 20MW wind farm with the potential to produce enough clean electricity to power 13,000 homes annually. It will be the biggest wind energy coop in Canada where members own the project outright. A FIT contract was submitted in 2009 and is pending approval.

Education about renewable energy is of vital importance to TREC’s activities. TREC Education is a registered charity that teaches Ontarians about the link between their energy habits and environmental impacts. Reaching over 25,000 students, youth, families and professional groups each year, TREC Education delivers renewable energy programming through school workshops, excursions and public outreach events. Their flagship event, the Kids’ World of Energy Festival, brings thousands of students and the general public together over five days to celebrate renewable energy and conservation.