A company that’s found a way to produce purer silicon at less cost for more efficient solar panels is taking the next step and building a $10.3-million pilot plant in Sarnia.
Ubiquity Solar expects to have the project up and running in six to nine months at the TransAlta Bluewater Energy Park on Vidal Street.
Assuming the test project is successful the company intends to build a full-scale production plant here, said president and CEO Ian MacLellan.
“Within five years of completing the pilot plant, we expect to have about 500 jobs here in Sarnia.”
The announcement last week followed a $500,000 investment by Bioindustrial Innovation Canada (BIC) and the Sustainable Chemistry Alliance Investment Fund.
BIC is a Sarnia-based not-for-profit with a national focus that’s reviewed Ubiquity’s technology and likes what it sees.
“Their technology is potentially disruptive and we look forward to working with Ubiquity to execute their business plan and support their success,” said executive director Sandy Marshall.
Ubiquity Solar says its proprietary process can produce silicon materials that perform better and sell at a lower price than what’s currently available on the market.
“The material has been getting purer at the same time the efficiency has been going up, because the more pure the material, the better the solar panels,” MacLellan said.
The Toronto native entered the fledgling solar industry in 1996 and worked on what was the largest solar project to that time, the Olympic Games in Atlanta, he said.
Shortly after, he launched Arise Technologies to install solar panels in residential and industrial applications. It was one of the first companies with a community-scale project, installing panels on 15 homes in Waterloo, Ont. in 2003.
The pilot plant will be located in the TransAlta Bluewater Energy Park, a fully-serviced 268-acre property located on the former Dow Chemical site.
TransAlta operates the largest cogeneration plant in Canada on the park’s south end and provides tenants with electricity at favourable prices.