Elemental Energy developed a 15 MWac solar facility in Brooks, Alberta – the first utility-scale solar project in western Canada. During a pre-construction site visit, Elemental Energy personnel noticed what appeared to be a hawk nest near the edge of their solar energy development property. Hawk species and active hawk nests are protected and regulated by the Alberta Wildlife Act and, depending on the species, by the Federal Species at Risk Act.
Elemental Energy contacted Matrix Solutions Inc. to assess the situation and proactively develop a plan to ensure the welfare of the hawk while keeping construction on track. Matrix completed a field survey and determined that the nest was being actively used by a Swainson’s hawk, which is not a species at risk but is still protected by Provincial regulations. During the field survey, Matrix also assessed the overall site conditions and noted other activities and disturbances in the area.
Matrix supported Elemental Energy’s engagement with provincial regulators to ensure effective navigation of regulations while maintaining an exemplary approach to minimizing potential impact to the hawk. As the project was the first of its kind in Western Canada, Elemental Energy and Matrix sought to take a leadership role to instill confidence with the regional Alberta Environment and Parks wildlife biologists and the general public.
The project had a constrained timeline which meant construction and the welfare of the nesting hawk had to be carefully balanced. In collaboration with Elemental Energy, a construction approach was developed to allow construction activities to advance in a manner that minimized the risk of disturbing the nesting hawk. The plan included the use of set-backs and construction activities were staged by location and time of year to reduce the risk of impacting the nesting birds until the eggs hatched and young were fledged.
The Elemental Energy Brooks solar energy facility was successfully completed by the required in service date. The hawk chicks were raised and flew from the nest in early August, 2017.