Queen's University

Queen's expertise attracts $500-million solar panel facility to Kingston

 
2009-03-26

Attracted by the interdisciplinary expertise of Queen's researchers, a Toronto-based solar panel supplier has chosen Kingston as the location for its new $500-million manufacturing facility.

Everbrite Solar, a division of Everbrite Industries Ltd., announced plans to build a highly specialized, robot-controlled plant using leading-edge technology in "thin-film" solar module production. The facility will be capable of generating 150 megawatts of solar power each year, and is expected to create more than 1200 "green collar" jobs in the Kingston area.

"This is exciting news for both Kingston and Queen's University," says Principal Tom Williams. "As a result of this substantial investment by Everbrite, our area will be the focus for solar power development in Ontario, with the potential to become a national Centre of Excellence in alternative energy. Having such a facility in Kingston will enhance our ability to attract the best researchers and graduate students to Queen's, and will help to move Ontario away from fossil fuels, toward renewable energy sources."

Associate Vice-Principal (Research - Strategic Development) Scott McKinley has worked with representatives from Everbrite since last November, and notes that the quality and interdisciplinary nature of the research team at Queen's was one of the key attractions for the company to locate in Kingston. "This is Queen's contribution to the Green Revolution and I'm excited that we can now proceed with it," says Dr. McKinley. "Our research excellence will ensure that Kingston - and likely Canada - remain at the forefront of solar photovoltaic technology globally."

Mechanical and Materials Engineering professor Joshua Pearce, who specializes in the type of high performance thin-film solar cells that Everbrite will be manufacturing in Kingston, will work to enable rapid development in the quality of semiconductor materials in the solar cells and the overall device efficiency. Dr. Pearce's group is already collaborating with Physics professor Kevin Robbie (Canada Research Chair in Nanostructured Materials) on high performance optical coatings and recently demonstrated the highest performance anti-reflective coatings ever.

"This ability to trap more sunlight and then use it in better quality materials within the cell will provide more efficient and less costly solar cells," says Dr. Pearce. "The potential to rapidly transfer these technological improvements from the Queen's laboratories to Everbrite's main factory line is unprecedented." A further collaboration between engineering professors Steve Harrison (Mechanical), Canada Research Chair in Power Electronics Praveen Jain (Electrical) and Dr. Pearce is working to incorporate Everbrite's PV panels into next generation system performance.

"It's no longer a dream to power your own home with clean renewable energy from photovoltaic panels incorporated into your roof," Dr. Pearce continues. Even in Ontario, the average home has more than enough surface area to provide all of its electrical energy needs with Everbrite solar panels, he notes.

"Best of all, the technology has finally matured to the point that solar energy can compete with fossil fuels on the economic stage," says Dr. Pearce. "If the Green Energy Act passes in Ontario, it will be remarkably profitable for homeowners to immediately begin outfitting their own homes with solar cells."

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