Canadian Manufacturing

Solar projects keeping Ontario manufacturer busy

Satcon expands Burlington facility, adds jobs



BURLINGTON—In less than a year, a Burlington, Ont. manufacturer has grown its workforce by almost 35 per cent to meet the growing demand for solar energy.

Satcon, which has operations in the US, Europe and China, provides power conversion systems for the large-scale commercial and utility-grade solar PV market. The company has supplied equipment for large-scale solar projects internationally and at home in Ontario.

It’s one of more than 20 companies in the province that have started up or expanded facilities to manufacture parts for the solar and wind industries.

Chris Hunter, Satcon’s director of global manufacturing, says being located in Ontario has been crucial to the company’s growth.

“Environmental regulations have helped. Our Ontario market wouldn’t have been possible without the Feed-In-Tariff (FIT) program,” he says.

The province’s FIT Program guarantees pricing structure for renewable electricity production.

“In 2009, we were just seeing moderate growth and our Ontario market was pretty much zero, but as the economy has rebounded, Ontario now represents about 10 per cent of all our North American sales,” he says.

Some of its major contracts in the province have included the Tecumseh Arena solar project, which is currently the largest rooftop project in Canada and the first municipally-owned Feed-In Tariff clean energy project, a solar rooftop project in Markham.

Satcon has also made equipment for the First Light Solar Park in Stone Mills, near Napanee, one of Canada’s largest solar projects.

Solar energy’s increasing popularity convinced the company to expand its Burlington facility by about a quarter, adding another 15,000 sq ft of manufacturing space.

Satcon also beefed up its workforce to a total 158 employees, adding 40 new jobs ranging from assembly, quality control and field service technicians.

Hunter says they’re in the middle of a $385,000 investment to automate and upgrade test equipment at the plant.

The new equipment should be fully operational by April of this year and should increase manufacturing capacity by about 100 MW, he says.

Although Hunter credits Ontario—where there are more than 2,900 solar projects—for much of its business, he says the company is also cashing in on growing international demand for solar.

Satcon has supplied systems to projects in the US, China, Europe, Greece and the Czech Republic.

It was recently selected to to supply its power harvesting and management solution, Solstice, to one the largest solar projects in the world—a 63 MW CIRO One Solar PV Plant in Puerto Rico.

The plant is expected to generate 116-million KW hours of energy.

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