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Heliene's new Florida plant to produce 'advanced product,' president says

Sault company to open second U.S. plant using latest, improved solar panel technology

Heliene, a Sault Ste. Marie-based solar panel manufacturer, has announced it will be opening its second U.S. facility in Riviera Beach, Fla., next month.

That good news for the company comes despite U.S. tariffs on foreign-made solar panels.

“There is a review process undergoing, at the end of which the U.S. administration is going to decide if those duties imposed on Canada are lifted, or not. There is also an arbitration process undergoing between the Canadian and American governments under the USMCA (the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement) regulations,” said Martin Pochtaruk, Heliene president, speaking to SooToday.

Tariffs or no tariffs, U.S. demand for Heliene’s product is clearly there, Pochtaruk said, that demand clearing the way for Heliene’s growth in the American market.

“It’s the same as many other manufactured products that Canadian industries make, and the main consumption is south of the border.”

“The U.S. demand is very large and has been growing, percentage-wise, every year. We can not and will not stop electrification. The only way to fight climate change is by accelerating the renewal of power generation, and the product we make is the engine for that change,” Pochtaruk said.

“The product we make in Sault Ste. Marie and Minnesota are, I would say, the same product most people make, but the product we’ll be making in Florida is different, an advanced product. It uses a type of manufacturing process and materials that are more efficient.”

Pochtaruk said Heliene’s Florida plant will be making what are described as “high-efficiency heterojunction solar cell modules (leading to greater amounts of solar-produced electricity),” to be used in residential and commercial settings. 

“Heliene will have the one and only factory in the U.S. making heterojunction solar modules. It’s a different technology with a different manufacturing process so we would not be able to do that here (in Sault Ste. Marie), at least not in the foreseeable future.”

“This presents a really good opportunity to diversify into a more advanced product in a market which has a very high demand. It’s part of the company’s growth, being a part of the electrification that will help us fight climate change,” Pochtaruk said.

“The purpose of the company is to fight climate change one solar panel at a time.” 

Heliene established its presence in the Sault on Allens Side Road in 2010, currently employing a mixture of 60 full-time and part-time workers.

Heliene’s first U.S. plant started up in Mountain Iron, MN, in 2017.

Between the three plants in the Sault, Minnesota and Florida, Pochtaruk said Heliene will have close to 200 employees.

“We’ll know more about that soon,” Pochtaruk said when asked if there will be expansion of the Sault’s plant as the federal government shows its determination to move Canada to a green economy.

“There have been many announcements on progressing toward a net-zero economy (cutting of greenhouse gas emissions) in Canada, and that is very good. The dialogue, the plans on how to get there, are not clear yet,” Pochtaruk said.

– SooToday