ATS Opens Canada's First Solar Energy Manufacturing Facility | Automation.com

ATS Opens Canada's First Solar Energy Manufacturing Facility

June 232004
New technology expected to revolutionize industry

CAMBRIDGE, ON, June 23 /CNW/ - ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. today (at 2:00 pm eastern) will open Canada's first full-scale solar cell manufacturing plant and unveil its revolutionary new photovoltaic technology that will soon be produced in commercial quantities from the highly-automated 193,000 square foot facility located in this southwestern Ontario city.

ATS's Spheral Solar(TM) Power (SSP) technology was developed in Canada in large part using Canadian engineering and scientific expertise, and is considered a major breakthrough for the estimated $3.4 billion global solar photovoltaic industry.

ATS expects its Spheral Solar(TM) technology will accelerate the adoption of solar energy by consumer and commercial users - and open new mainstream applications - because it can be manufactured cost-effectively and the resulting solar cells are pliable, lightweight, durable and can be produced in a variety of colours that suit seamless integration with traditional building materials.

With support from Technologies Partnerships Canada, SSP's current development plans will result in the creation of 200 jobs and the investment of more than $100 million in the Canadian economy by the end of calendar 2005.

"Spheral Solar(TM) Power is more than the next generation of photovoltaic technology," said Klaus Woerner, ATS President and Chief Executive Officer, "it will provide Canada and the world with a clean, renewable energy source that we believe may eventually rival fossil fuels on economics and ease of use. This a proud moment for ATS and the broader communities that have participated in SSP's development because we've put Canada on the map as a leader in renewable energy innovation."

According to industry forecasts, demand for solar energy will increase at 25% per annum through 2010 driven by growing power consumption, the requirement for distributed generation, and government incentives.

Milfred Hammerbacher, President of Spheral Solar Power said: "Countries such as Germany, the U.S., and Japan have recognized the importance of photovoltaic technology by supporting programs that ultimately lower monthly energy costs for the consumer while, at the same time, reducing dependence and costs associated with the maintenance of outdated central power generation plants. It's time Canada and provinces like Ontario get on board and leverage the innovation and manufacturing capabilities of companies like ATS and become the world leader in the design and use of distributed energy systems."

SSP Development History


ATS announced it intended to commercialize Spheral Solar(TM) technology in July 2002 and received funding from Technologies Partnerships Canada for up to $29.5 million to support SSP's development.

"We've come a long way since then," said Mr. Hammerbacher. "We've achieved major breakthroughs with the base technology. On our pilot line, we've successfully created the world's largest crystalline silicon solar cell with an energy-producing surface four times larger than conventional solar cells. We've developed a marketing strategy and identified a number of potential distribution partners around the world. We've successfully recruited 115 experienced people to drive our initiative. We've designed and built some of the most complex automation ever to assemble our solar cells. And now, we've opened this state-of-the-art facility. It's been a remarkable journey and while it will take time for us realize full value from our efforts, we're now well along with our commercialization plans."

"This first factory contains a number of innovative manufacturing processes that our Automation Systems Group designed using our 25 years of knowledge and expertise," said Mr. Woerner. "It's a showcase facility as much for its automation as for its solar manufacturing capability and we intend to make sure potential automation customers get a first-hand look at its capabilities."

SSP Next Steps

ATS has begun to optimize the 26 individual production processes that are housed in the factory and SSP is expected to begin shipping products this summer. The launch will also enable SSP to distribute samples to the more than 50 companies worldwide that are waiting to evaluate the technology. The factory is designed to be easily scalable when additional production capacity is required.

"It won't happen over night," said Mr. Woerner, "but we are very confident that Spheral Solar(TM) Power will accelerate demand for solar energy and expand Canada's presence in the global photovoltaic marketplace. We can see the day when our region will become an important economic powerhouse in the field of photovoltaic, just as it already has in automation."

SSP Factory Capacity

The SSP facility was designed to produce a targeted capacity of 20 megawatts of solar products annually. This is enough to power 6,000 to 8,000 homes every year. Over time, it's envisioned that the facility will increase its annual capacity to 40 megawatts - enough to power 12,000 to 16,000 solar rooftop systems.

SSP is expected to make a significant contribution to reducing greenhouse gases. For example, if a single 40 MW SSP factory were used to provide energy to 12,000 new homes every year through 2030, greenhouse gas emissions would be reduced by 30 megatonnes over the lifecycle of these systems. 30 megatonnes is the equivalent of removing 12,000 mid-sized cars from Ontario's roads every year. Over the same period of time, this one SSP factory would add 1,000 megawatts of new power to Ontario's electrical grid.

Another way to measure SSP's output is this: one barrel of SSP spheres (which could be produced by the factory every day assuming 40 megawatt capacity) produces the energy equivalent of 14,000 barrels of oil.

"Today's opening of our Canadian factory, coupled with our foothold in the European market, leaves us well positioned to exploit the enormous potential of the major markets in North America, Europe and Asia," said Mr. Woerner. "With today's announcement, we will start delivering on our competitive advantages and provide Canadians and consumers around the world with the products necessary for building a sustainable energy market for the 21st century."

ATS and the Solar Industry

ATS has been active in the photovoltaic industry since acquiring Photowatt International S.A. of Bourgoin-Jallieu, France in 1997. Since that time, ATS has applied its automation technology to help turn Photowatt into one of the few profitable solar energy companies in the world. Photowatt is now one of the largest solar manufacturers in the world with a leading market position in Europe.

Spheral Solar(TM) Power (SSP)

Part of ATS's Solar Group, Spheral Solar(TM) Power (www.sspsolar.com) is in business to develop, manufacture and market the Company's next generation solar photovoltaic (PV) technology referred to as Spheral Solar TM) Technology (SST). SST responds to traditional solar photovoltaic barriers by offering significantly lower costs than conventional technologies and revolutionary flexibility that enable a broad number of new market applications: including solar-imbedded roofing tiles, solar building facades and, automobile power systems. SST is a unique and proprietary technology that is expected to give ATS a significant competitive advantage in the global marketplace.

Corporate Description

ATS Automation Tooling Systems Inc. (www.atsautomation.com) is the industry's leading designer and producer of turn-key automated manufacturing and test systems, which are used primarily by multinational corporations operating in a variety of industries including: automotive, computer/electronics, healthcare, and consumer products. The Company also makes precision components and sub-assemblies using its own custom-built manufacturing systems, process knowledge and automation technology. Through Photowatt International S.A., and Spheral Solar(TM) Power Inc., ATS is an emerging leader in the rapidly growing market for solar energy. ATS employs approximately 3,800 people at 26 facilities in Canada, the United States, Europe and Asia-Pacific. The company's shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange under the symbol ATA.

Certain forward looking statements are made in this news release, including statements regarding possible future business. Investors are cautioned that such forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including, without imitation, continued acceptance of ATS's products, technologies, customer requirements and other risks detailed from time to time in ATS's periodic reports filed with Canadian regulatory authorities.
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