Solar energy project sheds new light on green growth

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George Mallay, General Manager
Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership

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Elizabeth A. McDonald, President
Canadian Solar Industries Association

For Immediate Release

City of Sarnia/Lambton County, ON – Hosting one of North America’s largest solar energy farms has helped shed new light on other green industry growth opportunities for a Central Canada-U.S. border community.

Construction is underway to develop a 60-megaWatt solar energy farm in Sarnia-Lambton, Ontario, Canada. The project by First Solar, of Tempe, Arizona, U.S., will produce photovoltaic energy for the Ontario Power Authority, the province’s energy supply manager. The authority manages long-term agreements with energy developers, to help meet the Province of Ontario’s commitment to have 45 percent of its energy supply come from conservation and renewable sources by 2025.

Currently, Ontario Government subsidies, like the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program, and other incentives, including those associated with the province’s new Green Energy Act, are providing much-needed encouragement for green technology firms to build and connect their renewable energy supplies to the public power grid.

Last Thursday’s announcement by the Ontario government of new generous feed in tariffs for power generation from an array of renewable energies further emphasizes the province’s long-term commitment to working with energy suppliers.

Ontario will also ensure that at least 25 per cent of wind projects and 50 per cent of solar projects be produced in Ontario — requirements for solar will increase by January 1, 2011 and wind will increase by January 1, 2012. Sarnia-Lambton provides an ideal location for manufacturing for solar and wind components.

The Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership, a private-public economic development organization, has been promoting its community as a solid location for solar energy business opportunities since 2002.
During that period, the Economic Partnership has dramatically increased its consultations with industry leaders, educational institutions and sector organizations and expanded it active participation in trade conferences and events.

“First Solar’s project is a positive example of what a budding sector with tremendous potential can accomplish, when it connects to a well-resourced community like Sarnia-Lambton and a welcoming energy administrator, such as Ontario,” says George Mallay, general manager, of the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership.

Private sector investments in technology research and product development are helping to move solar energy manufacturing costs in a positive, downward direction, towards parity with traditional generating methods. For example, in February 2009, First Solar reported that it had reached an important industry milestone, by reducing its manufacturing cost for solar modules below the $1US per Watt price barrier.

Communities at the grassroots level, such as Sarnia-Lambton, are also lending a hand to the solar energy industry, by positioning their local assets and resources to accommodate research and development systems, as well as commercial-scale manufacturing and generating facilities.

To magnify its focus on bringing more solar energy sector firms to its community, the Economic Partnership recently expanded its staff to include a full-time alternative energy project leader. “With a strong entrepreneurial drive, technical background and practical business experience, Denis Van Decker is already making great progress in encouraging solar energy companies in North America and in Europe to look seriously at the resources and opportunities Sarnia-Lambton has to offer,” notes Mallay.

“Having First Solar establish its 445-hectare (1,100-acre) site in Sarnia has given us tremendous insights into just how valuable a community’s assets can be to solar energy entrepreneurs,” says Mallay. “When you combine the photovoltaic potential of our location, our access to the necessary land base, our regional research and development facilities, and our industry focused infrastructure and labour supply with the Ontario Government’s legislative and financial incentives, one can readily see an increase in local opportunities involving both primary generators and spin-off solar energy businesses.”

On the research end, the Sarnia-Lambton Economic Partnership has been working with locally based Lambton College and the University of Western Ontario’s Research Park, Sarnia-Lambton Campus, to undertake and sponsor solar technology and system investigations. Lambton College is one of the few educational institutions in North America to offer post-secondary school studies in sustainable energy. The college’s Alternative Energy Engineering Program is a three-year program, which offers students theory and application skills in current and emerging solar and other energy technologies.

“In Canada and across North America, there has been an exponential growth in the number of solar energy technology applications in industrial, commercial, residential and agricultural settings,” notes Elizabeth McDonald, president of the Canadian Solar Industries Association. “Communities like Sarnia-Lambton that are developing a practical understanding of the sector’s needs and potential are now aligning their resources to help bring these opportunities to the marketplace in the future – a future that is already within view.”

Sarnia-Lambton is growing a promising and sustainable, green future from its historic industrial roots and abundant natural features.
Situated along the famous blue waters of Lake Huron and the St. Clair River, Sarnia-Lambton’s distinctive combination of modern city amenities, small town charm, quaint country corners, sandy beaches and recreational attractions is home to an increasing number of people and businesses. Visit to see why the community is well positioned for “powering a sustainable world™.”


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