First Solar took over more than 200 megawatts worth of OptiSolar projects in Ontario. Recurrent Energy just purchased a solar project pipeline from Chicago-based UPC Solar that is based mostly in Ontario. SunEdison, EDF Energies Nouvelles, and Axio Power are also in the game. Meawhile, Martin Roscheisen of Nanosolar says his company is seriously considering Ontario as the location of a regional module assembly facility. Ontario’s newly proposed solar feed-in tariffs, which range from 44.3 cents per kilowatt-hour for large ground-mount systems to 80.2 cents for residential rooftop, “could tip the balance in favour of investment in Ontario,” said Roscheisen.
For more details read Toronto Star article here.
First Solar’s purchase of OptiSolar’s project pipeline for $400 million in stock is a shrewd move during these uncertain economic times. To have more than 2,000 megawatts of solar projects in the pipeline — confirmed or under advanced negotiations — is a coup for the company. Land rights that offer the potential for 19 gigawatts is icing on the cake.
A lot of attention has focused on OptiSolar’s 550 megawatt PG&E project being transferred to First Solar. What hasn’t been discussed in all the media coverage, however, is what this means for the 200 megawatts or so of OptiSolar projects being developed in Ontario, specifically around Sarnia. Continue reading First Solar commits to Ontario OptiSolar projects
You may have heard that Hayward, Calif.-based OptiSolar announced last week cuts to 290 staff, nearly half its workforce. It’s just the latest round of job shedding in the solar and wind industries over the past few weeks. What I’m surprised to hear is that OptiSolar had more than 600 employees — that’s incredibly fast growth for a company that until a year ago was operating in stealth mode. This seems to be a common theme with these industry cuts: companies that invested in rapid expansion just a few months ago are forced to take an abrupt step backward.
Peter Carrie, who heads up OptiSolar’s Canadian solar development operations, said the 18 or so employees in Canada haven’t been affected by the cuts and the projects planned for Sarnia and Petrolia are still going ahead as planned, though possibly a little slower. OptiSolar has more than 200 megawatts worth of projects on the go in Ontario, each broken up into 10-megawatt chunks according to the rules of the province’s standard offer program. So far about 1 megawatt has been installed using solar PV modules from the company’s Hayward manufacturing facility. Part of the job cuts — 105 — have to do with OptiSolar’s ambitious plans to open a new manufacturing facility in Sacramento that, at full capacity, would have been capable of churning out 2,000 solar panels a day. That facility was to employ about 1,000 people but the company has decided to suspend, for now, the high-volume manufacturing plant.
For background on OptiSolar, check out this previous post.
In discussions about renewables such as wind and solar we often forget to talk about the challenges of using these technologies in certain climates. The same goes for electric car batteries and biodiesel. Folks in California probably don’t give this much thought, but being Canadian — and having shovelled my driveway four times this month — it’s a reality that can’ t be avoided.
Take earlier this month. I was supposed to visit OptiSolar’s solar farm in Sarnia but the forecast called for snow — lots of it. We cancelled the visit, thank god. Later on the news that night I watched as police on snowmobiles rescued people whose cars were stranded in snow-filled ditches at the edge of the highway — the main highway into Sarnia that I was supposed to take. Needless to say, OptiSolar’s panels got blanketed by snow, again, and again, and again this month.
The New York Times has an interesting story about winter and its impact on renewables. It talks about snow on solar panels, ice on wind turbines, and how the cold can turn biodiesel into thick goo. But winter, it should be pointed out, does have some advantages: the wind blows better in the winter and solar panels are more efficient in the cold (though the days are shorter).
The story also talks about the new work opportunities that winter presents. Removing snow from neighbourhood solar panels or solar farms could be the new “green-collar job” for local kids!