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15 December 2009


PV maker First Solar to expand Enbridge’s Sarnia project by 60MW

After the initial 20MW solar energy project achieved full commercial operation on 7 December, energy distributor Enbridge Inc of Calgary, Alberta, Canada and First Solar Inc of Tempe, AZ, USA have agreed to expand the capacity of the Sarnia Solar Project (near Sarnia, Ontario) to 80MW, involving a total extra system cost of about CDN$300m. “It demonstrates confidence in First Solar’s engineering, procurement and construction team,” comments the PV maker’s president Bruce Sohn. First Solar’s CdTe PV technology has already been deployed in 1.5GW of installations in the USA and Europe in total.

With about 6000 staff, Enbridge owns and operates Canada’s largest natural gas distribution company, providing distribution services in Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick and New York State, and operates the world's longest crude oil and liquids transportation system, but is expanding its interests into renewable energy technologies.

In October, Enbridge agreed to acquire the initial 20MW solar energy project that First Solar developed at the site. “We’re delighted to further strengthen our relationship with First Solar,” says The firm’s president & CEO Patrick D. Daniel. “First Solar has delivered the initial 20MW as committed – demonstrating their strong technical competence combined with attention to meaningful community engagement and corporate social responsibility practices that align with our own values.”

First Solar is constructing the solar project under a fixed-price engineering, procurement and construction contract, and will also provide operations and maintenance services to Enbridge under a long-term contract. The 60MW phase is expected to begin construction this month and be completed by December 2010. Sarnia is now expected to be the largest solar energy facility in North America, with 1.3 million modules covering a total surface area of 973,000m2. At 80MW, Enbridge expects the Sarnia Solar Project to generate 120 million kWh of power annually (enough to meet the needs of over 12,800 homes) and to help to save the equivalent of about 39,000 tonnes of CO2 per year.

“Enbridge has made significant strides in growing its green energy business in 2009,” Daniel continues. “With this investment, we will have interests in more than 470MW of green power capacity from our five wind energy projects, expanded solar facilities, four waste heat recovery facilities and the world’s first commercial application of hybrid-fuel cell technology.” Daniel noted that solar energy is a key component of Enbridge’s environmental performance strategy to invest in renewable and alternative energy sources, complementing its core operations.

“Our increased investment in the Sarnia Solar Project maintains risk-and-return characteristics which are fully consistent with Enbridge’s low-risk business model, and similar to our crude oil pipeline business,” says Daniel. The expansion takes advantage of the Sarnia site’s ability to accommodate additional capacity, he adds. “Following on our recently announced wind energy project, the Sarnia solar expansion provides a good balance in our renewable energy portfolio between solar and wind.”

The output of the 80MW facility will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority pursuant to 20-year power purchase agreements under the terms of the Ontario Government's Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program. “Our recent investments in green energy projects in Ontario – including the 99MW Talbot Wind Energy Project, our 190MW Enbridge Ontario Wind Project, and the Sarnia Solar Project – are evidence of Enbridge’s commitment to advancing environmentally preferred energy solutions, and of the value of the Ontario government's proactive support and encouragement of investment within the province,” concludes Daniel.

See related items:

First Solar sells California’s largest PV power plant to NRG

First Solar raises full-year revenue guidance to high end of prior range

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