- To secure a North American sustainable future, resilient solar panel manufacturing and supply capacity need to be scaled up.
- Manitoba could soon be home to a patterned solar glass manufacturing plant and a major supplier of lithium to meet North America's growing demand.
- The province is also one of the region's key shipping hubs, offering manufacturing locations ready access to markets and affordable shipping fees.
One key takeaway from the International Energy Association’s recent special report is that China’s dominance over the supply chain presents a significant threat to the world’s ability to meet its solar panel production goals.
While Canada and the United States are actively working on reducing emissions, Governments need to ensure their path toward more sustainable energy systems has a strong foundation. In terms of solar, this means scaling up North American supply chains in a resilient, affordable, and sustainable way.
Manitoba is positioning itself as a prime location to bolster North American solar manufacturing capacity.
Only recently, Canadian Premium Sand Inc. (CPS) announced it has entered into an Option to Purchase Agreement with the City of Selkirk to acquire land zoned for heavy industrial purposes located northwest of the intersection of Manitoba Highways 4 and 9A. This move will allow CPS to purchase land with the intent to build a patterned solar glass manufacturing plant in Manitoba. If approved, construction of the manufacturing facility is expected to begin in 2023.
Solar Supply Chain Taking Root in Manitoba
This glass manufacturing plant could meet North America’s growing demand for patterned glass while helping the solar supply chain take root in Canada.
It could support the development of a low-carbon domestic solar supply chain and Canada’s transition to net-zero emissions. It could also open up future opportunities for complementary businesses, job creation, and economic growth.
Manitoba is one of North America’s key shipping hubs, offering manufacturing locations ready access to markets and affordable shipping fees. CPS’s plant will be close to their silica deposit, helping them access renewable energy while utilizing responsibly-sourced natural gas, in line with the IEA’s recommendations.
Manitoba poised to become a major supplier of lithium for North America
As the auto industry transitions from fossil fuels to electric vehicles, the demand for lithium is growing, and a mine in northern Manitoba is ready to become a significant supplier for North America.
According to Phillip Gross, CEO and chairman of Snow Lake Lithium, “The demand for lithium far outstrips the actual supply available today. And most lithium in the world today – at least 85 percent of it – is controlled by China.” Volkswagen and Mercedes-Benz both recently signed material agreements with Canada for lithium to use in the lithium-ion batteries required for their electric vehicle fleets.
Lithium-Not just for EVs
Gross believes lithium will be used in aviation, marine, and energy storage solutions as the world continue to move away from fossil fuels and technologies improve.
Snow Lake Lithium can produce up to 160,000 pounds of lithium each year, roughly enough to supply half a million EV batteries. It’s a significant contribution to the IEA’s hope for more countries to invest in domestic solar supply chain solutions, but there is still room to grow. In the future, Manitoba might not only be a major supplier of lithium, but the province could also be home to manufacturing centers for EVs.
A Great Start for Canada
One of the points emphasized in the IEA’s special report is the importance of distributing global solar panel manufacturing capacity and creating domestic pathways.
To better understand why this is necessary, consider how recent and unforeseen manufacturing halts in China caused the price of polysilicon to rise to a 10-year high. Such price spikes are not uncommon and showcase the world’s ongoing dependence on China for supplying key materials for renewables.
To meet North America’s growing energy demands and climate goals, the global deployment of solar products needs to grow at an unprecedented scale. Significant manufacturing capacity expansion must also occur, which will continue to flourish in Canada.
Canada has an enormous opportunity to make a global impact in the renewable energy sector by bringing the solar supply chain home with Manitoba at the forefront, showing us the way.