Another green energy firm closes in Windsor

Siliken Renewable Energies closed its solar panel production facility in Windsor on Friday.
Siliken Renewable Energies closed its solar panel production facility in Windsor on Friday. (CBC News)

Siliken Renewable Energies closed its solar panel production facility Friday in Windsor.

The company made the announcement almost one year to the day after it opened and on the very day it was revealed the city still has Canada’s highest unemployment rate.

Siliken did not reveal how many employees lost their jobs Friday.

"You must understand that, out of respect for our workforce, they are entitled to having the news before everyone else," Siliken Canada Corporation general manager Paco Caudet wrote in an email. "They are receiving letters in the mail [Friday]."

The PC energy critic and Nipissing MPP Vic Fedeli alleged in a media release 53 people were laid off Friday. 

Caudet said in a media release that business just wasn't there and the company had to close.

"It is hard for an industry to survive a drought of six months, without new contracts and with uncertainty about the existing ones. The market for product is too small to sustain so many producers," Caudet wrote. "We believe in the Ontario marketplace and the long-term commitment to the Green Energy Act, but must concentrate our efforts on other jurisdictions of North America with more volumes in the short term."

News of the closure broke as Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan was in Windsor for a pair of events Friday.

"It’s disappointing news for this community," said Duncan, whose Liberal government passed the Green Energy Act.

Duncan compared the solar panel industry to the arrival of the auto industry, when there were several auto manufacturers fighting to enter the market in the early 1900s.

"The strong competitive ones survived. Unfortunately Siliken couldn’t make a go of it," Duncan said. "Market conditions have been bad for solar around the world."

University of Windsor business expert Mark Meldrum said there is simply no market for solar — period.

"This was never a case of market failure. It was a case of technological insuperiority," Meldrum said during the last round of Siliken layoffs on May 1. "There's no way to get the yield out of a solar panel to the level that makes it competitive with hydro or nuclear."

Siliken opened its production facility in May 2011. It employed 50 people. Two months later, Siliken employed 120 people and laid off 70 of them in early July 2011.

On May 1, 2012, the company laid off another 40 and trimmed production down to one shift. Those remaining employees received layoff notices Friday.

Siliken is not the only green energy facility to close in Windsor this year.

In March, wind turbine manufacturer WindTronics closed up shop after two years in operation.

The company’s president said the provincial feed in tariff (FIT) program was not working for him, so he moved the business to Michigan.

The province gave WindTronics $2.7 million to open in Windsor. The company promised there would be 200 workers in the plant by the end of this year.

Siliken did not get any government investment.

"Dalton McGuinty gave false hope to the renewable industry, especially those in the solar sector, with overly rich feed-in-tariff (FIT) subsidies," Fedeli said in a media release. "As soon as that unsustainable subsidy was reduced, sales fell and jobs disappeared. This proves our point that these so-called "green jobs" are only temporary."