Sustainability Reporting Initiative
Working in collaboration with the environments in which we conduct operations.
Any infrastructure project results in changes to the land where it is built and operated. Our priority is to ensure that our footprint is mitigated or minimized with each decision we make. Every effort is made to return the temporarily disturbed land to its original state upon project completion and we invest in long-term monitoring programs to evaluate the progress of the restoration programs put in place. During the planning stage of a project, we endeavour to locate facilities as near to existing transportation and transmission lines as possible, which not only allows us to minimize land use impact but is more economically efficient.
Our hydro facilities occupy a relatively small footprint. Post-construction activities include long-term monitoring programs and land restoration programs that return temporarily disturbed areas back to their original state.
Wind farms can be built on productive or brownfield pieces of land. Though they are typically spread over larger tracts of land, the turbines themselves and the surrounding infrastructure (including roads and transmission lines) occupy a small portion of the total area of a wind farm, which is not fenced. The surrounding area can still be used for a variety of other productive purposes, including for agriculture.
Solar farms are typically sited on low-productive or unused tracts of land and are not commonly shared for other uses. We do however have one facility, Spartan, which doubles as the roof of a sizeable outdoor parking lot, showing that dual usage is possible.
Construction phases at our facilities, depending on their type and size, can be completed in as little as 12 months up to as long as 36 months.
During construction activities, we ensure that all parties involved in the construction commit and implement rigorous processes in order for the waste generated and hazardous materials used to follow a strict waste removal protocol ensuring that waste is collected and recycled or disposed of, in accordance with applicable regulations and as outlined in our Environment, Health, and Safety Policy. In 2018, we implemented a new Spill Management Procedure in British Columbia designed to improve our response and align with provincial regulations. We are presently expanding the procedure in our other areas of operation based on provincial, state and federal requirements.
In 2018, Innergex had one project, the Flat Top wind project in Texas that completed construction activities and two projects that began construction, the Phoebe solar project and Foard City wind project, both also located in Texas. Construction will continue on these projects throughout the year with expected completion dates in Q3 and Q4 2019 respectively.
Innergex is keenly aware of the impact energy developments have on the landscapes in which they are developed. Our priority is to mitigate, minimize or avoid those impacts to the best of our ability by employing our expertise, experience and the most current technological and scientific methods available. Every effort is made to return the temporarily disturbed land to its original state upon project completion and we invest in long-term monitoring programs to evaluate the progress of the restoration programs put in place.
Replanting native vegetation, repairing riparian zones, and earthworks projects are important areas of focus that play a role in returning the temporarily disturbed land back to its original state during the post-construction phase. These activities are monitored and approved by independent third-party professionals.
In 2018, as part of our long-term commitments, almost 80,000 trees were planted on land associated with projects in British Columbia. Not only do they help restore the ecosystem, they also mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and reduce the amount of CO2 being absorbed by the oceans, thus slowing their acidification.
Protecting the environment and developing our natural resources responsibly is one of the key development principles Innergex adheres to. From conception to construction through operation, we invest in environmental monitoring programs to help us understand the terrestrial and aquatic environments around our projects. Our environmental assessment programs begin before we break ground (with environmental assessment and baseline data collection) and continue years after the first electrons are produced in our facilities. Much of the monitoring and analyses are carried out by independent third-party specialist environmental consultants. For some projects, we have partnered with NGOs or academia by providing the necessary capital required to conduct multi-year and comprehensive monitoring programs.
The monitoring results contribute new data and knowledge to a relatively under-researched area and can greatly add to our understanding of the environmental issues associated with renewable energy development.
As many of our projects are located in remote areas, consideration of wildlife plays an important role in the planning, construction and operation phases of our projects. We have a successful record of partnering with government, NGOs, conservation groups, academia and local organizations to design and conduct solutions to mitigate human-wildlife interactions and disturbance to important wildlife ecosystems.
At our hydroelectric projects, wildlife concerns are mainly focused on the construction phase of the project. Mitigating disturbances to wildlife corridors, protecting species at risk, and ensuring minimal disruption to important habitat is critical in the design phase of our projects. Our environment team has proven adaptable in addressing unforeseen issues and has consistently risen to the occasion to resolve them in a timely manner. Throughout the life of a project, our teams continue to monitor fish populations to ensure that they remain healthy and unaffected by operations.
The same concerns abound and are addressed when developing a wind project, and their potential impact, most notably on birds and bats, has been widely documented and studied. Though it is commonly held that, on a percentage basis, wind turbines account for a relatively low number of avian deaths, we nonetheless remain committed to mitigating issues. For example, our development teams consider advances in wind turbine technologies that minimize the risks to avian populations as an option when deciding upon manufacturers and our environment team considers popular avian migration routes when recommending siting of turbines. Furthermore, wind farms are not fenced, letting wildlife roam throughout.
Much like for hydroelectric development, our primary concerns when developing a solar farm occur during the construction phase. Although solar farms typically take up larger pieces of land that is not typically shared with other users, they are often located in areas with smaller wildlife populations as the land is less productive to support an abundant ecosystem.
Innergex’s policies are designed to guide the Corporation and its employees to ensure compliance in all aspects of its business. These policies ensure the sustainable growth of the Corporation through supporting employees with information-sharing and training, providing transparency with shareholders and the public, and clearly laying out the Corporation’s vision for ethical and acceptable behaviour. The policies are reviewed on an annual basis and updated accordingly.