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Toronto suburb FIT with 400 solar jobs [Photo gallery]

Job announcement falls under FIT incentives


July 20, 2011
by Matt Powell

NEWMARKET, Ont.—Despite pre-election questions about the future of Ontario’s Feed-in-Tariff program (FIT), semiconductor maker MEMC announced, along with its solar subsidiary, SunEdison and manufacturing partner Flextronics, the creation of 400 jobs at a Newmarket, Ont. solar plant.

Flextronics, which owns the plant, has expanded its existing workforce and electronics manufacturing plant to make room for two new solar panel production lines, one of which is up and running for SunEdison and its partners. The second line is expected to be operational by this fall.

The expansive new facility produces 280 mega-watt photovoltaic (PV) solar panels with 60 per cent domestic content, the minimum required for green-energy projects to receive incentives from the FIT program under Ontario’s Green Energy Act.

The labour intensive process of producing the panels is almost entirely done by hand, with only one stage of manufacturing performed by robots.

The 72, 6-inch PV cells are sandwiched between two sheets of ethylene-vinyl acetate (EVA), a polymer that’s often compared to rubber and vinyl and is both waterproof and resistant to UV radiation, and two layers of tempered glass. The plant’s robots stack the layers and send them through an oven to bake the layers together and then through a cooling station.

From there, a worker assembles the panel’s frame by hand, attaching it using silicon and a hydraulic press system. The panels are then sent to workers who clean away excess silicon and inspect them before being sent to final testing.

Once the panels reach their final testing stage, they are sent through a flash-tower, which simulate the UV levels of sunlight to ensure the panel is working properly.

The 23 kilogram panels operate between temperatures of -40 C and 85 C.

SunEdison expects to have 500 mega-watts of solar projects on the grid by the end of this year, according to MEMC executive vice-president, Ken Hannah. Revenues in the fourth quarter of 2010 were $307.6 million, up from $21.5 million in the third quarter of the same year.

The company was awarded 31 mega-watts of solar (PV) projects by The Ontario Power Authority (OPA) in December as part of the FIT program, on top of the 28 mega-watts of ground-mount and rooftop projects already deployed in Ontario.

Singapore-based Flextronics is a global electronics manufacturer with more than 200,000 employees in 30 countries.

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