Windsor solar companies hope for new U.S. energy policy

Alternative energy producers in Ontario will keep close watch on U.S. election day.

Sean Moore of Unconquered Sun Solar Technologies Ltd. said that if Michigan voters approve Proposal 3 on Nov. 6 it could mean big business for his solar panel company.

If it passes, Proposal 3 would mandate that 25 per cent of Michigan's electricity must come from renewable resources by 2025.

In anticipation of approval, Unconquered Sun purchased all of Siliken's Canadian solar manufacturing assets.

“It’s a planned strategy to enter the U.S. market. We want to garner some market share down there,” Unconquered Sun founder and CEO Sean Moore said.

Siliken made solar panels in Windsor until May 2012, when it laid of its remaining 53 employees.

At its peak, Siliken, which invested $7 million in its Windsor operation, employed 120 people.

Unconquered Sun made the acquisition Thursday.

“We want to be in a position to fully capitalize on a potential positive Proposal 3 vote," Moore said. "We are in a great spot geographically and we plan on taking full advantage of Windsor’s location to export our modules to the U.S.”

Unconquered Sun will ramp up production capability in the current quarter. Full production is forecasted for the first quarter 2013.

Klaus Dohring, president of Green Sun Rising, which is also based in Windsor, isn’t as optimistic about changes in Michigan.

“I appreciate any direction by any state doing something with renewable energy. Fundamentally, I think it’s the right direction to take,” Dohring said. “However, when I look at Michigan and what Michigan has been doing in the last number of years, the overwhelming majority of renewable energy projects in Michigan have been wind-based.”

Also, a poll conducted by the Detroit Free Press and published this week suggests that Michigan residents will reject Proposal 3.

Dohring said he sells “very little” solar product Michigan, partly because the U.S. often buys American. Dohring said he once lost a U.S. project to buy-American policy. He also chose not to bid on a Michigan solar project because it was still too small and experimental.

Moore, though, said there is “no domestic content rule within the scope of the proposal” so he’s not concerned about buy-American policy.

Both Moore and Dohring admit wind energy has been Michigan’s focus but there are no incentives similar to Ontario’s feed-in tariff structure that would increase residential solar power.

“When you have large wind potential the money will flow in that direction. If you want to open a residential market you have to have feed-in tariffs,” Dohring said.

The Green Energy Act in Ontario has made an impact and opened up residential market, Dohring said.

He and Moore hope the same happens in Michigan.

“We serve markets where solar markets exist,” Dohring said. “And we would be delighted to be active in Michigan if and when a solar market was to arise.”

A call to CS Wind, which builds wind towers in Windsor, wasn't immediately returned.

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