Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Solar Firm to Hold Windsor Job Fair

WINDSOR, Ont. -- A Spanish-based manufacturer of solar panels plans to stage a job fair in conjunction with the Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation to fill 175 jobs created when the company begins production in a plant near Windsor Airport in the second quarter of next year.

No further details were available Friday when the Siliken Group announced plans for an $8-million investment in the region which will be capable of manufacturing 50 megawatts of solar modules annually.

"We'll be looking for mainly assemblers but also skilled trades, quality control managers, sales people, shippers, receivers and other personnel," said Paco Caudet, Siliken's manager of business development. "We are confident we will find the right people for these positions because of the skilled workforce which exists in the Windsor area."

Siliken's decision to locate its second North American plant in Windsor will likely mean more work for area suppliers as well as providing solar panels to the growing number of area companies now involved in the renewable energy sector.

OYA Solar, a Windsor company which recently reached a $20-million agreement with Atlas Tube to place solar panels on 650,000 square feet of the Harrow company's roof, will likely be one of the main beneficiaries of Siliken's move into the region.

"It's a really strong positive development for our company in that it allows us to have a local supplier for our panels," said Manish Nayar, managing partner of OYA. "We have been speaking with Siliken representatives for a while now and nothing's firm at the moment but we're very happy they're here and looking forward to building a relationship."

Nayar said OYA's goal is to source 100 per cent of its parts from local suppliers and "at the moment, the only gap is the solar panels themselves so we're extremely excited they're here."

OYA, whose sister company Polar Racking makes racking systems, currently buys its solar panels from U.S. and German manufacturers but that will have to change in the coming months when made-in-Ontario content rules kick in under provisions of the provincial Green Energy Act.

Siliken hopes to begin manufacturing solar panels by the second quarter of next year.

"We've done it before," said Caudet when asked about the aggressive timeline. "We have equipment already available in Spain and once we acquire the site, we plan to ship it here and begin running tests on the assembly line by the end of January."

Siliken will be retrofitting an existing plant rather than building a new one which also shortens the timeline.

Caudet said Siliken decided upon Ontario for its second North American plant because of the provincial government's Green Energy Act and a feed-in-tariff program which allows energy producers to sell power back to the electricity grid.

"We selected Windsor for its location, its skilled workforce, the local development corporation's relentless efforts to sell the Windsor community and its inability to take no for an answer," said Caudet.

Mayor Eddie Francis said the announcement continues to help "create a critical mass of renewable energy companies which will enable us to position this region as a hub for this growing sector."

Francis said his role was to act as the chief sales officer for the region and that the city has made no commitment regarding funding for the project.

Siliken president and co-founder Carlos Navarro said Windsor and Valencia, where Siliken has its headquarters, both have "a rich history in the automotive industry and a skilled workforce which makes this initiative a perfect partnership."

Siliken is a group of companies specializing in the manufacture of modules and other photovoltaic components.

Founded in 2001, Siliken now has more than 1,200 employees. The company opened a sales office in Toronto in July to accommodate its growing Canadian customer base.

In addition to PV modules, the company also manufactures power inverters, installation structures, electrical security panels, monitors, low-power air generators and other components.

It also has business operations in Spain, Italy, France, Germany, the Czech Republic, Greece, Belgium, the Netherlands and the U.S.


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