Blogs & Comment

Thin-film solar coming to Canada

Toronto-based company Everbrite Solarcame out of nowhere yesterday to announce plansto build a $500-million thin-film solar manufacturing facility in Kingston, Ont. The plants construction, if its indeed completed, is significant. Solar manufacturers are next to non-existent in Canada, and Everbrites facility would be the first thin-film plant in the country.
The plan is to start construction by this fall at the latest, and to start selling modules 9 to 12 months after that. The plant would employ 300 people directlyaround 1,200 if spin-off jobs are includedand produce 150 megawatts worth of modules each year. In addition, Everbrite wants to build a $25-million thin-film manufacturing and research centre with Queens University in Kingston.
The company is an offshoot of Everbrite Industries, an electrical contracting firm founded by Karl Scherre in 1984. Scherre says hes always been an avid follower of renewable energy and decided last year to form a solar division (of which hes CEO) with two partners.
But just how is a company new to the solar field going to raise $500 million in this dreadful economy? Scherre says Everbrite is nearly there. Financing is already lined up, he told me. We have three brokerage firms that are out there getting money. Two of them already have letters of intent, and were just finishing up the term sheets. And with that, well have enough to proceed. Scherre said everything could be finalized in a matter of weeks, and that not all of the financing is coming from Canadian investors.
There are a couple of other things the company cannot divulge just yet, such as who is developing the technology and at what cost per-kilowatt-hour the thin-film panels will generate electricity. But Scherre will say the companys technology converts sunlight to electricity at a 12% efficiency rate, around the industry average, but hopes to boost it to 14%. Thin-film has some advantages over traditional photovoltaic solar panels, such as lower cost and less dependence on silicon price swings. Scherre says the modules are also better suited to Canadas climate.
If the company manages to pull this off, it would be quite an accomplishment. But Ill wait until construction is well underway before getting too excited.