Windsor is quickly positioning itself as the “renewable energy hub” of Canada.
The first real indication of this came earlier this month, when Solar Source Ontario announced that it will partner with India-based HHV to manufacture solar panels in Windsor.
"This is going to be a hub," said Solar Source president Ross Beatty, whose joint venture will see an investment of $40 million and the creation of 120 jobs by the end of the year.
And the numbers are adding up quickly. Solar Source and HHV plan on employing 200 people next year, and as many as 500 in three years. In all, there are about nine local renewable energy firms either in business or planning to open soon.
Among them is Schletter Inc., a German firm that makes support racks for solar panels. Initially, the plant will employ 100. Windtronics, a manufacturer of small residential and commercial wind turbines, plans to employ up to 125 people by the end of the year and eventually 200.
Bigger things may be around the corner. The WindsorEssex Economic Development Commission has been in discussions with Samsung, which will be creating 1,440 manufacturing jobs in the renewable energy field in Ontario as part of a $7 billion wind and solar power agreement with the province.
It has taken time and a great deal of work to put the region in a leadership position when it comes to renewable energy. Certainly, an important point came in March 2009 when Ontario Economic Development and Trade Minister Sandra Pupatello organized a renewable energy summit at Caesars Windsor. About 800 attended, a clear indication of the interest.
As well, the city, in a move that some will see as controversial, has agreed to build a $4 million plant for Solar Source on airport land that will be leased back to the company. In this case, the risk for taxpayers is minimal, the potential payoff for the local economy is huge.
The development corporation is also playing a key role in selling the region, and marketing our strengths, including a skilled labour force that can adapt to change.
"What we’ve learned over time is that diversification doesn’t have to be about reinventing yourself or trying to become something you’re not," said Patrick Persichilli, executive vice-president of the corporation.
"It’s about leveraging your assets and doing what you’re good at, and this community has always been good at making things and moving them."