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New solar technology being tested here could lead to 500-job plant

Published on

Cathy Dobson

The CEO of Ubiquity Solar Inc. is optimistic his company will build a plant worth more than $100 million in Sarnia in three years.

Ian MacLellan says many details need to be worked out but the Chemical Valley is the logical place to commercialize new technology Ubiquity has developed for the solar energy industry.

Ubiquity Solar recently announced a $10.3-million pilot project will go ahead this fall to prove the manufacturing process of its trademarked SolarBrick technology.

Ten staff highly specialized in photovoltaics are moving into part of the former Dow Chemical R & D building on Vidal Street.

Ubiquity is working with the University of Waterloo, the University of Toronto, McMaster University and others to develop technology to manufacture high-quality, lower-cost polysilicon materials for use in solar cells and modules.

SNC-Lavalin is a partner on the Sarnia project.

MacLellan said SolarBrick technology can produce a higher performance silicon material and sell it at a lower price than what’s now on the market.

“Our product is needed for the first step in the production of solar energy,” explained MacLellan.

The recent explosion of more efficient solar power has opened the door for much more growth, he said.

“I chose the Ubiquity name because solar is going to become ubiquitous. It will become so normal, you’ll notice it by its absence.”

The company hopes to have its product available in low volumes by late 2016.

Assuming the pilot project in Chemical Valley proves successful over the next two years, Ubiquity Solar plans to build a full-scale plant here and create as many as 500 jobs, said MacLellan, who lives in Kitchener-Waterloo.

“Sarnia makes really good sense for us. What we’re doing is a chemical manufacturing process so we need low cost electricity, a lot of space and cooling water.

“The former Dow site is ideal.”

When Dow left Sarnia its property was developed into the TransAlta Bluewater Energy Park. MacLellan said TransAlta’s co-generation plant is providing Ubiquity Solar with inexpensive power.

If the silicon materials pilot project is successful the commercial plant could be in full production by the end of 2018, MacLellan said.

But he cautioned there are many hoops to jump through yet.

“Our plan is to build a plant in Sarnia but many things need to be finalized before that commitment is there,” he said.

Meanwhile, his company has started talks with Lambton College to establish employee-training programs.

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