Sustainable Development Shown By World Largest Photovoltaic Plan

First Solar, a leading manufacturer of photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and provider of solar solutions, and Enbridge, a leader in the safe and reliable delivery of energy throughout North America and recognized as one of the Global 100 Most Sustainable Corporations in the World, have opened the 80-megawatt Sarnia Solar Project for commercial operation, allowing it to take its place as the largest operating photovoltaic power-generation facility in the world.

Located on 950 acres of sun-drenched land, the facility contains about 966,000 square metres of solar panel surface, which is made up of about 1.3 million thin film panels manufactured by First Solar. The power it generates supplants fossil-fueled power that would otherwise have required about 39,000 tons of CO2 emissions each year.

"Completing the world's largest PV power plant demonstrates the migration of solar PV toward utility scale," said Frank De Rosa, First Solar's senior vice president of North American project development, who expects his company to complete installation of an additional 65 megawatts this year, also in North America.

In addition to generating about 120,000 MWh per year, enough power to meet the needs of an estimated 12,800 homes, the new Sarnia Solar Project produces no waste and no emissions. The high-tech power plant uses the newest PV technology, the production and installation of which creates the smallest carbon footprint of any PV technology currently available.

Power generated at the new facility will be sold to the Ontario Power Authority, as part of a 20-year Power Purchase Agreement, which falls under the terms of the Ontario government's Renewable Energy Standard Offer Program.

"The Sarnia Solar Project," said the Honorable Brad Duguid, Ontario Minister of Energy, "is an example of the kinds of renewable energy projects that have been developed under the Government of Ontario's Green Energy Act. Ontario can now boast the largest solar farm in North America - it is projects like this one that are making us a leader in renewable energy and helping us all move towards a cleaner energy future."

According to Maria Van Bommel, MPP for the surrounding Lambton-Kent-Middlesex area, "This is a significant project that not only helps power local homes and businesses with clean, renewable energy, but improves our air quality at the same time. I'm proud that a McGuinty government policy is helping Sarnia-Lambton take the lead on solar power."

This newest power generation project now becomes part of Enbridge's significant and growing portfolio of green energy assets, which include interests in seven wind farms, a geothermal project, four waste-heat recovery facilities, and a commercial application of integrated energy recovery and fuel cell technology.

"Our investments in green energy are an increasingly important part of Enbridge's business," said Al Monaco, executive VP in charge of Enbridge's Major Projects and Green Energy efforts. "Over the last year, we added four new projects totaling $1.5 billion, increasing our total green energy investment to $2 billion and establishing a solid platform for attractive and sustainable long-term growth with a risk-return profile consistent with our Liquids Pipelines and natural gas businesses.

"At the same time," he added, "our green energy assets deliver strong environmental benefits. Enbridge intends to stabilize our environmental footprint at 2009 levels under a program that includes a commitment to generate a kilowatt of renewable energy for every kilowatt of power our operations consume. We will achieve this goal through projects like the Sarnia Solar Project."

The green energy projects in which Enbridge has invested (both those in operation and those under construction) now total almost 850 MW of generating capacity, which is enough energy to meet the needs of about 292,000 homes.

First Solar, which developed, engineered, and constructed the facility, will operate and maintain the new Sarnia Solar Project for Enbridge under a long-term contract.

Founded in 1999, First Solar manufactures solar modules using the most advanced semiconductor technology, consistently driving down manufacturing costs and helping to create an affordable and environmentally responsible alternative to fossil-fuel generation.

First Solar measures all stages of its product's life cycle for both carbon footprint (the amount of carbon dioxide emissions emitted over the life cycle of the product) and energy payback time (the time it takes to generate the same amount of energy it took to produce the system). First Solar systems have the smallest carbon footprint and fastest energy payback time among all current PV technologies.

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Photo credit: Jeremy Levine Design