Suntech Power Holding Co., Ltd. (Suntech), and Calisolar, Inc. (Calisolar), have signed a letter of intent to build a solar silicon plant in Vaughan, Ontario, which will produce the mineral for use in the renewable energy industry. The plant will expand upon current operations by Calisolar’s subsidiary, 6N Silicon. When complete, it will provide renewable energy jobs for 350 Ontarians.
Calisolar is a California-based supplier of solar wafers and cells used in photovoltaic energy production, as well as the silicon required to manufacture them. The company has offices in Vaughan, ON and Berlin, Germany. As set forth in the letter of intent, Suntech, a global leader in the production of crystalline silicon panels, will help finance the new facility and has agreed to purchase silicon from the plant for a fixed term.
According to Steven Chan, Suntech’s President of North American Operations, the new partnership between the two companies “is an excellent opportunity for Suntech to accelerate the development of the solar industry in Ontario.” The company, he says, has “determined that our continued commitment to the silicon refining industry provides the best opportunity to create long-term sustainable jobs given the product’s export viability.”
FIT Spurs Job Creation, PV Courses, Requires Domestic Product
Ontario is a strategic location for solar companies to do business. It provides a number of incentives for firms and individuals to augment their energy supplies with renewable sources, the most far-reaching of which is the feed-in tariff (FIT) program. The program offers twenty-year contracts that guarantee high prices to producers of renewable energy who feed electricity into the province’s power grid. To qualify, participating projects must use a portion of Ontario-sourced labour and materials. For solar PV projects, targets reach as high as 50%; 60% as of 2011. This has greatly increased demand for solar products, and has created many renewable energy job openings and opportunities for those enrolled in solar installation and design courses.
The new Vaughan plant will provide Ontario’s solar projects with domestically manufactured silicon that will allow them to meet the FIT’s domestic content requirements. This will, in turn, create hundreds of green jobs, and should reassure students of Ontario’s PV courses that the province will have plenty of work for them in the future.
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