Canada Gains 20 MW Solar Production Boost

Solar Energy isn’t exactly the first thing the comes to mind in Canada, but that’s all about to change in one southwestern Ontario city as ATS Automation Tooling Systems is on their way to opening a new 193,000 square foot facility dedicated to the highly-automated mass production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells for the solar energy market. With an initial production capacity of 20 MW, ATS said the facility would be the first large-scale solar PV production facility in Canada.

Cambridge, Ontario – June 24, 2004 [SolarAccess.com] Solar Energy isn’t exactly the first thing the comes to mind in Canada, but that’s all about to change in one southwestern Ontario city as ATS Automation Tooling Systems opens their new 193,000 square foot facility dedicated to the highly-automated mass production of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells for the solar energy market. With an initial production capacity of 20 MW, ATS said the facility would be the first large-scale solar PV production facility in Canada. The company will deploy production lines using their subsidiary, Spheral Solar Power’s (SSP) technology, which was developed in Canada in large part using Canadian engineering and scientific expertise. The company plans to tap into the estimated $3.4 billion global solar photovoltaic industry. ATS expects its Spheral Solar technology will accelerate the adoption of solar energy by consumer and commercial users – and open new mainstream applications – because it can be manufactured cost-effectively and the resulting solar cells are pliable, lightweight, durable and can be produced in a variety of colors that suit seamless integration with traditional building materials. With support from Technologies Partnerships Canada, SSP’s current development plans in this southwestern Ontario city will result in the creation of approximately 200 jobs and the investment of more than $100 million in the Canadian economy by the end of calendar 2005. “Spheral Solar Power is more than the next generation of photovoltaic technology,” said Klaus Woerner, ATS President and Chief Executive Officer, “it will provide Canada and the world with a clean, renewable energy source that we believe may eventually rival fossil fuels on economics and ease of use. This a proud moment for ATS and the broader communities that have participated in SSP’s development because we’ve put Canada on the map as a leader in renewable energy innovation.” The SSP facility was designed to produce a targeted capacity of 20 MW of solar products annually. This is enough to power 6,000 to 8,000 homes every year. Over time, it’s envisioned that the facility will increase its annual capacity to 40 megawatts – enough to power 12,000 to 16,000 solar rooftop systems. This facility represents the culmination of many steps and a new phase for the company. ATS announced it intended to commercialize Spheral Solar technology in July 2002 and received funding from Technologies Partnerships Canada for up to $29.5 million to support SSP’s development. “We’ve come a long way since then,” said Milfred Hammerbacher, President of Spheral Solar Power. “We’ve achieved major breakthroughs with the base technology.” On their pilot line, ATS said they successfully created the world’s largest crystalline silicon solar cell with an energy-producing surface four times larger than conventional solar cells. They developed a marketing strategy and identified a number of potential distribution partners around the world. They recruited 115 experienced people to drive their initiative. Woerner said this first facility contains a number of innovative manufacturing processes and the facility is as much a showcase facility for their many automation systems as it is a commercial solar PV manufacturing facility. ATS has begun to optimize the 26 individual production processes that are housed in the factory and SSP is expected to begin shipping products this summer. The launch will also enable SSP to distribute samples to the more than 50 companies worldwide that are waiting to evaluate the technology. The factory is designed to be easily scalable when additional production capacity is required. “We’ve designed and built some of the most complex automation ever to assemble our solar cells. And now, we’ve opened this state-of-the-art facility,” Hammerbacher said. “It’s been a remarkable journey and while it will take time for us realize full value from our efforts, we’re now well along with our commercialization plans.”
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