In the realm of solar, you’d kind of expect the title of “largest” to go to sunny and hot places like, say, California or Arizona or Nevada, or some sunny place in Europe or the Middle East somewhere. Nope — that title goes to Ontario, at least for today. First Solar announced today that it has completed the final phases of its Sarnia solar power plant and that the facility now ranks as the largest solar PV plant in the world. The plant is owned by gas and pipeline giant Enbridge Inc. — you know, the guys who had the big oil spill in Michigan. The press release says it is an 80-megawatt plant, but over at PRResources.com it ranks the project first at 97 megawatts. Not sure what the deal is there. But even at 80 megawatts it’s still 33 per cent larger than the second-largest plant, which is in Olmedilla, Spain. The next largest in Canada, ranking 24th worldwide, is the 23.4 megawatt facility in Arnprior, Ontario.
I remember it was just a few years ago when it was a big deal to see 1 megawatt of solar installed across ALL of Ontario, let alone single projects.
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.