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At about twenty-seven thousand square feet, the Madawaska Highlands Observatory will be the largest energy independent commercial building in North America.


The Observatory will be located on a four-hundred and fifty meter high plateau next to thousands of hectares of protected crown land. The location was selected for its outstanding topography, convenient highway access, isolation, and, most importantly, the extremely dark night skies.

The night sky is untouched by artificial light. The views are absolutely breathtaking: with the vast mass of stars the patterns within the constellations become unrecognizable, and our Milky Way Galaxy is sufficiently bright to cast a soft shadow.

This awe-inspiring Observatory is within three and a half hours of millions of Americans and half the Canadian population.

Constructing an Off-Grid Building

The Observatory will generate its own energy through a combination of technologies, and will be built to the highest construction standard: LEED Platinum Certification (Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design).

This educational and tourism facility will consist of a visitors centre, an ampitheatre and plaza, a digital planetarium and high definition theatre, a boutique and restaurant, and a display and exhibition hall.

Alliance Engineering has a role to play in this incredible project. To be constructed on a forty-one hectare  parcel of land in the Madawaska Highlands of Ontario, the Observatory will be one-hundred percent green powered. To help achieve a net zero energy building, Alliance will investigate strategies such as solar, geothermal, and thermal storage. Alliance will also design and build a high performance HVAC system for the facility.

Achieving Energy Independence

  • Green Powered

Utilizing the sun’s energy through photovoltaic solar cells into a battery storage bank, power will be generated to operate the facility. Solar thermal tubes will be used for water heating, and geothermal energy will heat and cool the building. The facility will collect rain and recycle grey water to reduce the use of fresh water for flushing.

  • Solar Electric Cells

The roof of the building will have over twenty-thousand square feet (nineteen-hundred square meters) of available roof area for solar electric cells. This is sufficient to generate two-hundred and eighty-five kilowatts of electricity at peak output, providing a wide margin of extra energy to handle cloudy days and shorter winter days. The roof will also use solar thermal cells for hot water heating.

  • Living Building Standard

The building will be an excellent fit for the Living Building Standard. The Living Building Challenge is the industry’s most rigorous environmental building performance standard. It calls for creating building projects that operate as cleanly, beautifully and efficiently as nature’s architecture. The facility will surpass this standard.

Accomplishing a Vision

The Madawaska Highlands Observatory Corporation vision is to deliver an extraordinary experience of our place in this vast universe.

It’s a remarkable vision: To become the premier facility of this type in North America by delivering a highly motivational and inspirational experience to visitors and a profound learning opportunity to students.

The Madawaska Highlands Observatory Corporation will accomplish its vision by:

  • Offering a motivational and inspirational educational experience

Students and young people will be inspired when they peer through the largest public telescopes in the world, viewing galaxies billions of light years away.

  • Creating a sought after destination

Designed as a top tourism destination in Ontario and Canada, the Madawaska Highlands Observatory will offer an extraordinary experience. Situated under an exceptional night sky without a hint of light pollution, visitors can gaze through the world’s largest public telescopes and experience the universe with Canada’s most advanced digital planetarium.

  • Providing access to scientific research

By providing access to the most powerful telescope in Canada to the global astronomical community and by conducting its own leading-edge scientific research, the Observatory will contribute to humanity’s understanding of our place in the universe.

  • Generating economic opportunities for the community

This semi-remote area is sparsely populated but has a tight-knit community. The Madawaska Highlands Observatory Corporation wants the local community to benefit with jobs and economic opportunities, yet have the minimal possible disturbance to the environment and its inhabitants.

  • Building for environmental responsibility

The facility is designed to be truly part of the living environment by being off-grid and built to the highest environmental construction standards.

Building Canada’s most powerful Telescope

The newly developed, Wide-Field-Telescope (WFT), is the inspiration behind the Madawaska Highlands Observatory Corporation. This unusual telescope is dedicated to wide-field photography and cannot be used visually. The wide-field telescope is designed to discover exoplanets, which are planets outside the solar system that was formed 4.6 billions years ago, and is expected to discover hundreds over the course of its lifetime.

  • Twenty-six Full Moons

Technically advanced with a host innovations, the WFT is relatively compact and light at only two-hundred kilograms, but remains extremely powerful. In one image it can capture an area of the sky equal to twenty-six full moons. The WFT has some truly spectacular capabilities with its greatest asset being the ability to photograph a huge section of the night sky in a single exposure. The WFT’s ability to photograph faint stars over a very wide swatch of sky will allow it to measure hundreds of thousands of stars simultaneously. The gapless and seamless image is a significant advantage for astronomers.

  • One-hundred and twelve million pixels

Built of carbon fibre, giving it superb dimensional and thermal stability, it is one-tenth the mass of a classical telescope. Equipped with the largest CCD (Charged Couple Device) image sensor in the world at 95 mm x 95 mm—thirty times the area of an APS-C digital camera—with one-hundred and twelve million pixels, cooled to minus hundred degrees Celsius, fitted with active optics and a host of other advanced technologies and innovations, will make this a highly sought after telescope by professional astronomers.

The Wide-Field-Telescope is expected to generate some of the most beautiful and best wide-field images of the night sky in the world.

Installing a Digital Projection System

At the heart of the Visitors Centre is a Digital Planetarium, employing a half dozen 4K projectors with a total unique pixel count of thirty-eight million pixels.

Sky-Skan will be installing its Definiti® 8K, the world’s highest resolution digital planetarium system—it has twenty-four times the definition of HDTV. With the Definiti® 8K Projection System, the Digital Planetarium will be the most advanced in Canada.

Visitors to the Digital Planetarium will be transported to the heart of our solar system and beyond. They can travel to the centre of an atom, to the fringes of the cosmos, or take a spin around the solar system. With the high-definition video streams, they’ll see one seamless picture on a giant screen that brings them right up to the visuals on the dome. An awe-inspiring and breathtaking experience.

Viewing our Planet and the Constellations

What more can visitors to the Observatory want. At the Madawaska Highlands Observatory, they will enjoy the largest dedicated visitors’ telescopes in the world—30″ and 40″—specially designed to avoid ladders and offering stunning views of the universe. As well, from the one-story, circular shaped building, they will have spectacular views of the Madawaska River Valley 200 meters below.

At the Madawaska Highlands Observatory visitors can view the most distant reaches of the observable universe, and they can also view the sparkling lakes and rivers, and the majestic hills and forests of the Madawaska River Valley.

Experience the joys of learning about our earth and our universe as we orbit the sun in our solar system and view billions of galaxies—all through the wide-field telescope at the Madawaska Highlands Observatory.

A place where people can view their place in the universe.