The green energy sector has not delivered to Windsor the number of jobs several firms collectively promised during the last three years.
Through media releases, public announcements and media coverage of grand openings, CBC News has learned that eight companies promised they would fill up to 1,480 jobs in the alternative energy sector by the end of 2012.
To date, three of those companies are operating in Windsor and employ approximately 262 people.
According to company spokesperson Patrick Persichilli, CS Wind currently employs 225 people.
Schletter Canada, which manufactures solar panel mounting systems, employed 12 people in November of last year. It previously promised to hire 125.
Unconquered Sun confirmed Monday it has 25 employees but said in August 2011 it would double that number by the end of this year.
In an email to CBC News, Unconquered Sun CEO Sean Moore said he is in the process of hiring an additional 10 employees.
“We have another planned expansion in July and will be hiring more at that time,” he wrote.
Moore’s company has diversified into manufacturing solar powered golf carts and pool pumps.
“We’re not stacking panels in the corner and waiting for the phone to ring,” Moore said.
WindTronics, Siliken and Unisolar of LaSalle have closed up shop and left, leaving 480 promised jobs unfilled. Solar Source Corporation and Algatec were to collectively bring 400 jobs to the region but never came.
“It is hard for an industry to survive a drought of six months, without new contracts and with uncertainty about the existing ones,” Siliken spokesperson Paco Caudet said in a written statement Friday, the day the company closed.”The market for product is too small to sustain so many producers.”
Mayor still sold on green energy
Windsor Mayor Eddie Francis said the problem isn’t with the green energy manufacturing industry. The problem is the inability for energy producers to hook up with the grid. Francis said he has met with Hydro One to discuss the problem.
“They said to me, well we’ve got infrastructure that is best described as a rural road, and we’ve got the amount of 401 truck traffic that we’re trying to put on a rural road that’s not set up for that,” Francis said.
“There certainly have been problems with grid connectivity,” Moore said.
That hasn’t deterred the mayor from still trying to attract green energy jobs. He claimed Friday that Windsor is still “a green energy hub.”
He went so far as to travel to Germany with Algatec officials in an attempt to lure the company to Windsor. It never came.
“Our efforts to diversify have had an impact and will have an impact by year’s end,” Francis said Friday at a media conference held after Siliken closed. “The green sector is still an option. CS Wind is doing extremely well.
“We continue to be in a position to capitalize on these types of investments. The presence of these green energy companies have led us to other industries. BYD is a good example of that.”
Francis has also spent thousands of dollars travelling to China, where he has been trying hard to convince manufacturer BYD to build all-electric buses in Windsor for the North American market.
The city has agreed to buy two BYD buses to ensure an exclusivity agreement, which states the company will stop looking for a North American municipality in which to manufacture the buses while Transit Windsor runs pilot tests with the buses.
In February 2012, the mayor said talks between BYD Company Limited and the City of Windsor “pretty advanced,” that BYD was “focused on Windsor” and that the city was close to an additional 500 jobs building the buses.
‘Windsor-Essex clearly a leader’
Ron Gaudet, the CEO of Windsor Essex Economic Development Corporation, also stands by the green energy industry but admits it has its problems.
“Windsor-Essex is clearly a leader in an Ontario context,” Gaudet said.
However, in Guelph, Canadian Solar employs 400 people at one plant.
“What we have to do as a region and a province is lean into what are the issues? Why after a few years are companies starting to have problems? The answers are difficult. I don’t pretend to be an industry expert,” Gaudet said. “The province had a well-intended philosophy. If we can be a leader, we can be a significant North American player.”
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