Solar energy project sheds new light on green growth
SARNIA-LAMBTON Hosting one
of North Americas 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 provinces energy supply manager. The authority manages long-term
agreements with energy developers, to help meet the Province of Ontarios commitment
to have 45 percent of its energy supply come from conservation and renewable sources
Currently, Ontario Government subsidies,
like the Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program, and other incentives, including
those associated with the provinces 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.
A recent announcement by the Ontario
government of new generous feed in tariffs for power generation from an array of
renewable energies further emphasizes the provinces long-term commitment to
working with energy suppliers.
Ontario will also ensure that at least
25 percent of wind projects and 50 percent of solar projects be produced in Ontario
requirements for solar will increase by Jan. 1, 2011 and wind will increase
by Jan. 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 Solars 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.
Having First Solar establish
its 445-hectare (1,100-acre) site in Sarnia has given us tremendous insights into
just how valuable a communitys 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 labor supply with the Ontario Governments
legislative and financial incentives, one can readily see an increase in local opportunities
involving both primary generators and spin-off solar energy businesses.