Sarnia officially home to largest PV solar farm on planet-at least for now

By Shawn Jeffords  The Observer

A slew of dignitaries, community members and the media toured Enbridge’s Sarnia Solar Project on Blackwell Sideroad Monday. The massive $400-million project is now fully operation, producing enough electricity to power 12,000 homes.

“For renewable energy people this is a great day,” said Al Monaco, Enbridge executive vice president.

“Not only is it sunny out there today, we’re generating power. There is no noise, no emissions, no water being used. It’s a very efficient form of power.”

Sarnia has long been a home to Enbridge’s traditional business: oil, gas pipelines and storage. Now it’s the centrepiece for the company’s first foray into solar, Monaco said

“Once we get behind something like renewables, we get behind it in a big way.”

The 1.3 million panels erected on the site can generate up to 80 megawatts of power. That translates into a reduction of greenhouse gas emissions by 1.5 million tonnes, he said.

Frank DeRosa, senior vice-president of First Solar, a partner in the project, said it’s not your conventional power plant.

“It doesn’t have big smokestacks, it doesn’t have big turbines, it doesn’t have pipelines, but it’s a power plant generating electricity.”

The farm, covering 950 acres (385 hectares) was purchased by Enbridge and expanded after First Solar’s initial 20 megawatt project. Though currently the largest in the world, that status may not last given some of the projects currently before U.S. regulators, DeRosa said.

“We are making history today. Like most records we expect this one will be broken … and we hope that it will be broken. That means we’re making progress in addressing global warming.”

The Sarnia project is the type of investment Ontario wants more of, said Energy Minister Brad Duguid, who toured the farm. The province is is trying to build a world-class green energy industry, he said.

“Seven years ago we had an energy system that did not have enough supply to meet the demand of Ontario families. It was unreliable. We needed to make these investments to ensure that we returned our system to a strong, reliable and clean system of energy.”

Duguid defended the decision to close Lambton Generating Station, which saw two of its four coal-fired units permanently shut down last week, putting 90 people out of work.

“In Ontario, we’re quickly shifting our energy sources away from sources like dirty coal, cleaning our air and providing healthier outcomes for ourselves and our kids,” he said. “This is a transition I think our generation can take a great deal of pride in.”

Duguid said the conversion to green energy will create 50,000 jobs in the province.

“That’s a lot of jobs, the next generation of jobs. The kind of jobs that will be around for a long, long time.”

Observer Article ID# 2786116

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