Bosch coming to Ontario, but how committed will it be?

Hamilton%2C%20Tyler45X64.jpgPosted by Tyler Hamilton
I reported Tuesday that Bosch Solar, a subsidiary of German conglomerate Bosch Group, had signed a deal with Calgary-based solar inverter maker Sustainable Energy Technologies that will see the firms integrate their respective products to create a kind of all-in-one solar package for the Ontario market. Sustainable Energy’s parallel inverter product, Paralex, would be integrated with Bosch’s micromorph thin film solar modules along with all necessary wiring. This would make it relatively easy for any contractor or home builder to install the systems without the need for specialized help. The companies hope this combination will distinguish themselves in an increasingly competitive market.
Sustainable Energy says it plans to move R&D and its inverter manufacturing to Ontario, where a feed-in-tariff program has lured many companies, including Korea’s Samsung, Chinese-focused Canadian Solar and India’s Solar Semiconductor. Denmark’s Vestas is also seriously eyeing Ontario’s offshore wind market.
If Sustainable Energy and Bosch follow through with these plans, it’s likely that Bosch will have to establish some sort of manufacturing footprint in Ontario. Not to produce the thin-film cells, but rather to do module encapsulation. Together, both companies could create several hundred direct jobs, but Bosch’s manufacturing presence would likely be minimal.
What’s unclear is whether Bosch sees Ontario as a launchpad to the United States. Sustainable Energy has indicated that it does, but Bosch has kept relatively quiet and, in all likelihood, if it was to pursue the California market it’s likely to set up assembly facilities there. And like most of the “deals” announced around manufacturing in Ontario, most of this is just talk so far. Samsung has a comprehensive framework agreement with the province, so it appears to be the real deal. The rest are just testing the waters, trying to get a sense of whether they can negotiate more from the Ontario government beyond the generous feed-in-tariffs being offered today. Whether the province is willing to step up with tax breaks and loan guarantees — that’s unclear. But until we get that clarity, most of what we’re hearing is nothing more than noise.

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