First Solar Sarnia Project Ramping


Construction ramps in September and installation of more than 330000 photovoltaic modules (~20 MegaWatts AC) is slated for year end 2009.
Project completion is expected in 2010 after a winter break.

Work on largest solar farm ramps up” by Shawn Jeffords for The Observer discusses an open house held by First Solar last week to allay community concerns about their ambitious plans. First Solar, Inc. (NASDAQ:FSLR) sought to rezone about 65 acres near Churchill Road from rural to industrial use in May and received Sarnia City Council approval in June.

View Sarnia1.kmz in a larger map

First Solar has been busy redesigning the Sarnia solar farm to use their CdTe (Cadmium Telluride) photovoltaic (PV) modules and expects to boost system capacity to 80 MW (MegaWatts) from Optisolar’s planned 60 MW while reducing the land area requirement to 445 hectares (1100 acres) from the original 470 hectares (1160 acres). By reducing the land area, First Solar has retained woodlots and widened setbacks between the PV arrays and roads. Responding to neighbors concerned about noise, First Solar has also “placed some equipment in concrete structures.” I presume utility scale inverters are the root noise issue.

The Sarnia project had been on hold (“Sarnia solar farm grinds to a halt”) since First Solar acquired it as part of OptiSolar’s solar project pipeline. About a month ago in “Local solar farm back in orbit” by Tara Hagan at The Observer, First Solar Vice President Peter Carrie said:

We’re delighted to be proceeding with this project. The bulk of this work has taken place over the past two or three weeks. We’re removing the old OptiSolar equipment, as far as the panels go, and doing some on-site preparation.

OptiSolar modules able to generate 2.5 megawatts of electricity are being removed. Will First Solar recycle or perhaps donate the OptiSolar modules to developing countries as is?

On July 30, 2009, per “First Solar, Inc. Q2 2009 Earnings Call Transcript” at Seeking Alpha, First Solar CEO and Chairman Michael Ahearn said:

We assume that a 220 megawatts AC pipeline, project pipeline as part of Opti transaction. We are now beginning or have began I should say construction on a 20 megawatts AC portion of that pipeline in Sarnia. The intent here is to build this and sell it to an investor. We expect to have the sale same completed by the end of the year, something we’re still working on, and the construction is underway.

Should First Solar have difficulty selling Sarnia or other self developed projects to investors in the near term, the solar module company will risk looking more like a utility than a manufacturer.

This is supposed to be Canada’s largest solar farm though please see “The curse of bigness: Parade of proposed PV projects claim to be the largest before they’re built” in the Chip Shots blog by Tom Cheyney at


  1. StevePluvia says:

    Great work on FSLR — as always. Please note as a follow to your Nanosolar drive by Aug 27, Nanosolar has completely taken down their webste leaving only this “Please check back here on Sept 9th for our new website with significant new announcements.” 09-09-09 fwiw =) Great work breaking that news on Nanosolar btw.

  2. admin says:

    At Editorial discretion, I am not approving comments from build your own solar panel promoters or websites. I also strive to block these sites in my Adsense account.

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