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Sault Ste. Marie capitalizes on Clean-Tech

An executive from a Spanish solar panel manufacturer intending to set up shop in Sault Ste. Marie this summer will be speaking this week at an alternative energy workshop in the city.

An executive from a Spanish solar panel manufacturer intending to set up shop in Sault Ste. Marie this summer will be speaking this week at an alternative energy workshop in the city.

Pere Soria, chief technology officer for Heliene, has more than 15 years of international experience setting up solar photovoltaic projects in places like South America and helping companies and government organizations use solar power generation.

Heliene's new Canadian venture is a solar panel factory led by Martin Pochtaruk, a former Essar Steel Algoma senior manager, who is behind the construction of an 17,500-square-foot plant on Allen's Side Road in the Sault Ste. Marie.

With a workforce of 40, plans are to start shipping the first modules to customers in Ontario and the U.S. Midwest beginning in late August or September. The plant is the result of an alliance between a group of undisclosed Sault businessmen and Helios Energy of Spain (Heliene Europe).

Soria is one of 10 international alternative energy experts speaking at the Business of Clean-Tech: Opportunities, Innovation and Funding workshop hosted by the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre at the Delta Waterfront Hotel and Conference Centre, March 31.

Other speakers include Christopher Flavin from the Worldwatch Institute in Washington D.C., award-winning author Guy Dauncey of the Sustainable Energy Association, Nicholas Parker of the Clean Tech Group and Nathaniel Bullard of Bloomberg New Energy Finance's Solar Insight Group.

The day-long event will feature discussions on how small and medium-sized Northern Ontario businesses can get involved in upcoming wind, solar and renewable fuel projects.

The Sault has already scored major successes in attracting these type of companies and wants to create a business-friendly environment that attracts more.

"We've had great success with large alternative energy projects in the community and we want to continue that momentum and drive it forward," said Tom Vair, executive director of the Sault Ste. Marie Innovation Centre.

Beginning years ago with Brookfield Power's wind farm on Lake Superior, other green energy developers have moved into town with the upcoming construction of Ellsin Environmental's tire recycling plant, Elementa Group's construction of a large plant that converts municipal solid waste to syngas and Pod Generating Group is making plans for a 60-megawatt solar energy farm.

Vair heads up a local Alternative Energy Task Team that is mapping out a strategy on how the city, economic development, local businesses and post-secondary institutions can cater to clean tech companies.

With former Algoma Steel president Denis Turcotte on board, the innovation centre published a position paper outlining research opportunities and how they can build a specialized local workforce. Sault College has forged a relationship with Brookfield Power with a wind energy program. Vair would like to see the same for solar.

"We do have a growing solar industry in Sault Ste. Marie, so how can we attack that segment and what we can develop in conjunction with private sector companies and other educational institutions in the province?"

Vair said he hopes being up front on these initiatives will pay dividends down the road.

"It is highly competitive. Certainly a lot of communities are looking at alternative energy and clean technology as a future growth industry.

"We've seen lot of activity in Michigan across the border in their government's efforts to ramp up alternative energy projects."

In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, Massachusetts-basedI Mascoma is using $20 million in state funding to establish a cellulosic ethanol plant using woody biomass.

The Business of Client Tech event takes place on Wednesday from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Admission is $30 per person. To reserve a seat, contact Angie Wagner at 705-942-7927 ext. 3133 or e-mail her at

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