February 14, 2017 – Paul Morden, The Observer – Ubiquity Solar’s plans for a $10.3-million pilot plant in Sarnia have received a boost from Bioindustrial Innovation Canada.
The government-funded agency based in Sarnia announced a $500,000 investment Tuesday in Ubiquity Solar, a company that has been working for several years to establish a facility in the city to manufacture advanced silicon materials for the photovoltaic (PV) solar energy and semiconductor industries.
“Their silicon production technology is very exciting,” said Sandy Marshall, executive director of Bioindustrial Innovation Canada.
“They can produce high-purity silicon at lower cost than traditional technologies, and we see the potential for that being disruptive.”
Ubiquity’s technology has the potential to put higher-quality silicon into the solar industry market, “and increase the efficiency of solar collection, and we find that very interesting,” Marshall said.
“Our support is based on them working within the TransAlta Bluewater Energy Park.”
That Sarnia site is where Ubiquity has said it intends to set up a pilot plant, and eventually develop a commercial production plant with an estimated workforce that could grow to 500 jobs.
Equipment for the pilot plant is expected to arrive in Sarnia later this year, according to Ian MacLellan, president and CEO of Ubiquity Solar.
“We’re expecting to have delivery of the prototype process system in the third quarter of 2017,” he said.
“In that time, we’ll be hiring several people here locally, to operate that apparatus.”
MacLellan said he and other members of the company’s team have extensive experience in the industry.
“We’re seeing a lot of positive feedback from potential customers,” he said.
MacLellan said advancements in the company’s technology over the last year have expanded its potential markets.
“We’re quite confident in the technology in that we’re now targeting to be able to produce electronic-grade polysilicon that can be used in both the electronic industries and the PV industry,” MacLellan said.
Ubiquity is still “very focused” on the solar energy industry “but improving the purity by a factor of 10 allows us to service a broader market,” he said.
In 2014, federally-funded Sustainable Development Technology Canada announced $3.1 million in funding for Ubiquity Solar’s pilot plant.
MacLellan said the recent support from Bioindustrial Innovation Canada has already led to additional investment.
“This will allow us to go to the next phase in our project to produce industry-leading high performance silicon wafers for the solar industry.”
That industry continues to grow faster than anticipated as the cost of new solar energy has come down, MacLellan said.
“I think the big thing is that in 2016 we hit a threshold where solar is inexpensive.”
Marshall said this is Bioindustrial Innovation Canada’s first investment in solar technology.
“Our mandate is to invest in sustainable chemistry innovations, and certainly this technology has potential to reduce GHG (greenhouse gas) emissions, and is part of a low-carbon economy,” Marshall said.
MacLellan said Ubiquity Solar continues “to be excited about being in Sarnia.”