Respect the environment

For Innergex, developing sustainably means harnessing the water, wind or sun in a way that avoids, minimizes, mitigates or compensates for impacts on the surrounding ecosystem. We take this responsibility very seriously. Over the past 25 years, we have earned a reputation for upholding the strictest environmental standards and we continuously strive to improve our assessment, monitoring, commitment-tracking, compliance and reporting practices. In doing so, we have developed innovative best practices that, in some cases, have become standard practice in our industry.

Innergex’s achievements on the environmental front are the work of a team of dedicated environmental experts consisting of biologists, environmental engineers and specialists in key areas such as habitat mitigation, reconstruction, environmental permitting, and monitoring: people who care about doing things right.

For renewable energy facilities, we have found that potential environmental impacts are most likely to occur during the construction phase. Consequently, our environmental activities focus largely on the careful analysis and planning of each new project, obtaining all necessary permits, monitoring construction activities, restoring the site after construction, and then monitoring the site to ensure that it is recovering as expected and monitoring the facility to ensure that it is performing as expected.

Environmental assessment process

Every prospective renewable energy project that Innergex considers undergoes an internal environmental review to assess the potential environmental effects and, in many cases, the cumulative effects. Once a decision is made to develop a project, it undergoes a much more rigorous and formal process of environmental assessment required by local and provincial government regulatory agencies and, in some cases, by federal agencies and departments such as Fisheries and Oceans Canada. An environmental assessment is an evaluation of the possible impacts that a proposed project may have on the existing natural environment and nearby human communities, and includes environmental, economic, social, health, historical/archaeological, and engineering considerations. This evaluation requires comprehensive studies completed by independent qualified professionals and involves several years of consultation with regulatory agencies, First Nations, stakeholders, and the public. Once this evaluation has been completed, and if the project is deemed to have an acceptable level of environmental impact, the appropriate provincial and federal regulatory authorities award the necessary permits and approvals – prerequisites for starting construction on the project. Each permit or approval typically outlines a series of conditions which must be fulfilled throughout the construction and operation of the project.

Environmental sustainability from the start

Innergex’s solid environmental performance is founded on the integration of environmental considerations at the earliest stages of our project development process. Engineering and environmental objectives are simultaneously addressed in the design of new projects in order to protect valued components, such as wildlife and wildlife habitat, fish and fish habitat, erosion protection, and vegetation, as well as heritage (including archaeological and traditional use), health and social-value components. Environmental factors are part of the process of permitting and construction scheduling, modelling of long-term average electricity production levels, and budgeting. This has enabled us to strike a balance of engineering functionality, economic returns, social acceptability and environmental considerations, from project design onwards.

Avoid, minimize, mitigate, or compensate

Fish Habitat Enhancement

In Canada, the Fisheries Act requires that hydroelectric projects avoid causing serious harm to fish and fish habitat. If a project is predicted to result in a loss of fish habitat, we build new fish habitat enhancement areas to offset the loss. In British Columbia, we have constructed six habitat areas totalling more than 75,000 m2 and we expect to complete three more totalling 10,000 m2 in 2015. At some of these sites, adult Pacific salmon migrate inland each fall from the Pacific Ocean to spawn. The thousands of young salmon produced annually go back to the ocean each spring, and then return again as adults, thus completing their life cycle. In 2014, independent monitoring studies at the Kwoiek Creek facility found that the new 1km long fish habitat compensation channel supported spawning and rearing of rainbow trout mere weeks after the channel was accessible to fish in the spring. By the fall, the density of fish in the channel was already similar to the adjacent natural section of Kwoiek Creek. This is great news and a very positive sign for upcoming spawning seasons. These habitat enhancement areas will continue to operate throughout the multi-decade operating life of our hydroelectric facilities.

Grizzly bears

Grizzly bears are an iconic species, particularly in British Columbia. At our hydroelectric project sites, we work to effectively manage human activities in an effort to respect the species and its habitat. During the construction phase of the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project, for instance, Innergex is implementing extensive measures to minimize potential impacts on grizzly bears and their habitat, including foraging sites and salmon spawning streams. In addition, a Human-Wildlife Interaction Management Plan and a Human-Bear Conflict Management Plan have been implemented to maximize the safety of grizzlies – and humans – during construction and operation of the project.

In September 2013, Innergex contributed $300,000 to the British Columbia Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to carry out a five-year study into the grizzly bear population present in the Upper Lillooet River drainage area, where Innergex’s Upper Lillooet Hydro Project is located. As part of the project’s Environmental Assessment Certificate requirements, the provincially led regional research program will conduct a grizzly bear inventory and a monitoring and evaluation program to understand the impacts of development on the grizzly bear population. Innergex’s contribution will be used for collaring and monitoring of female grizzly bears and collection of hair-snag/DNA samples.

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Innergex is implementing extensive measures to minimize potential impacts on grizzly bears and their habitat.


Tretheway Creek Spotted Owl Contribution

The Province of BC and Innergex partner on spotted owl recovery
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The spotted owl is an endangered species in British Columbia.

When planning for the Tretheway Creek and Big Silver hydroelectric facilities in British Columbia, we learned that the proposed Tretheway Creek project and the transmission line shared with the Big Silver Creek project would pass through an area designated as a future managed habitat area for the spotted owl, an endangered species in that province. While it is not currently designated as owl habitat and no owls have been found in the area where the Tretheway Creek transmission line will go, the area is considered suitable habitat for the species should the population increase. In total, some 300,000 hectares have been designated as protected spotted owl habitat as part of a BC Government initiative to breed the species in captivity and then release birds in selected areas the wild.

We are working with the Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations to create a set of conditions that should minimize any potential impact from the transmission line. Among other measures, Innergex is making a contribution of nearly $500,000 to the Spotted Owl Population Recovery and Captive Breeding Re-introduction Program. We have also planned for the transmission line to avoid areas deemed prime habitat for spotted owls, and we are working with wildlife experts to ensure the project has the least possible impact on wildlife in the area.

Osprey at Glen Miller

At our Glen Miller run-of-river hydroelectric facility on the Trent River (in Trenton, Ontario), a pair of osprey built their nest on the 44 KV hydroelectric tower. Innergex operators at the facility decided that, in order to protect the birds from further harm, they would need to physically relocate the nest. One of our operators describes this unique story: “When we arrived at work one day, we noticed an osprey on the ground beside the tower; it was obvious that it had a broken wing, and that it had touched the electrical wires. We called the Sandy Pines Wildlife Centre in Napanee and they sent someone to collect the bird. Unfortunately, we learned that the osprey was damaged internally and had to be euthanized. Based on advice from experts, we decided to relocate the nest so that the other osprey and their eggs would be safe. We constructed a new pole with a platform on top and safely moved the nest onto the platform and out of harm’s way.” Ospreys tend to return to the same nest each year, so the relocated nest will continue to be a safe place for the birds and their young. Also, because osprey are territorial birds and do not build nests close to each other, the new pole acts as a deterrent against other osprey building nests near the electrical wires.

Monitoring and compliance

Keeping our environmental commitments means comprehensive monitoring and reporting, both internally and by independent consultants, to ensure that any effects of our operating facilities are in line with the predictions agreed to during the environmental assessment for each project. By tracking and measuring our performance, we are able to refine our approach and develop best practices in our industry. Independent specialists monitor construction activities associated with our projects, as well as the predicted effects and the rehabilitation and compensation measures once a facility has begun operation.

We understand that our reputation depends in part on having well-designed and well-operated renewable energy facilities, and so compliance is a key focus of our environmental practices. We strive to remain in compliance at all times with applicable environmental regulations and operating permit and license requirements. Compliance incidents may occur periodically at any of our facilities; each compliance incident is addressed immediately upon detection. We have had very few such incidents. We are proud of our compliance track record, and we fully intend to continue our efforts to maintain it.

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Ecofish Research crew members conducting a mountain whitefish survey as part of the Environmental Assessment for the Upper Lillooet Hydro Project in British Columbia.


ECOLOGO® certification

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We have applied for and received ECOLOGO® Certification for Renewable Low-Impact Electricity Products for 14 of Innergex’s 26 hydroelectric facilities. This certification attests to each project’s reduced environmental impact and potential benefits, including low net greenhouse gas emissions, limited depletion of non-renewable resources, reduced emissions of other pollutants and reduced impacts on aquatic, riparian and terrestrial ecosystems and species. We are currently seeking to obtain ECOLOGO® certification for the 211.5 MW Gros-Morne wind farm in Quebec.