U.S. solar rack manufacturer eyes Canada
By Mary Del
Northern States Metals, Hartford, CT, has set up an office in Kemptville, ON, and plans to open a 35,000 sq ft manufacturing and assembly operation in the province in July 2011 that will employ approximately 20 people.
The company is currently considering three locations for its manufacturing operation that are located west of Toronto. Two of the locations being considered are Hamilton and Mississauga.
Northern States Metals manufactures the Solar FlexRack, metal and aluminum racks used for mounting photovoltaic solar panels.
"The opening of this office is the first step in meeting the requirements of Ontario’s Green Energy Act," says Tom Jensen, vice president of sales for Solar FlexRack. "Our plan is to meet the Ontario Feed-In Tariff program for both microFIT and FIT projects starting Jan. 1. This program mandates that a certain percentage of the content of items sold in Canada must either be manufactured by Canadian companies or manufactured in Canada."
Northern States Metals has been selling its racks in Canada for about 2 and a half years and the company sees a bright future for its product in this country. That’s why it recently hired a sales manager to run the Ontario office and the manufacturing centre that will be opened next year.
“Ontario is a very, very good market for us and currently we have more rack systems installed in Ontario than any other rack supplier,” says Jensen. “We have installations in Arnprior and are currently building product for installations in St. Isidore and Elmsley. The solar PV market in Ontario is a booming opportunity for racks and various associated solar suppliers.”
All of the projects cited, including another in an unnamed town located two hours north of Toronto, involve 10 megawatt installations.
Jensen says that Northern States Metals has already done due diligence for its manufacturing operation in Ontario.
“We found that the labour rate is similar to what we have in the US and the other more important factor is that the labour force is educated so we don’t think there will be a need for a lot of intensive training, so we’re happy about these two things.”
The manufacturing operation will include an automated assembly line with punching and drilling equipment.
“Tolerances for these racks are highly precise so we will have laser devices and other equipment for ensuring we are meeting the tight tolerances required for these types of products.”