Canadian firm makes hay while the sun shines – in Germany

Its hard to get ahead in a country when your best assets are snatched from your grasp. Click here to learn more or read an excerpt below.

 

A tractor drives past a solar panel in Germany. JOHN MacDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images) (JOHN MACDOUGALL/AFP/Getty Images)

 

Arise Technologies Corp. launched in 1996 with the goal of creating Canada’s leading solar energy company.

Over the next decade, the Waterloo, Ont.-based company went public on the Toronto stock exchange and secured about $40-million in funding.

But while it had raised some money and had a great deal of ambition, it lacked the means to turn its idea into reality – it had no factory location in mind, much less enough financing to build one.

That all changed in May, 2006, when a German agency made Ian MacLellan, the founder and chief technology officer of Arise, an offer he couldn’t refuse: It would help finance and build the company’s first solar factory. For Arise, it meant a fortune in savings. For the Germany Trade & Invest group, it meant adding a new player to its rapidly expanding alternative energy industry – Europe’s largest.

A mere 19 months after the offer, a factory in Bischofswerda, a picturesque town in eastern Germany near Dresden, was churning out photovoltaic cells, which convert a free source of energy – sunlight – into electricity. “We couldn’t have done this project this fast anywhere else,” he say, referring to the generous incentives available to foreign investors.

Since then, the factory, with 150 employees, has added a second production line. A third is coming this year as demand for PV equipment rises at triple-digit rates as alternative energy subsidies roll in and PV costs fall. “Germany has a real commitment to manufacturing quality,” Mr. MacLellan, 54, says. “It made real sense to expand here.”

Mr. MacLellan is in awe of German industrial efficiency. Indeed, Arise has tapped into a country that is flourishing.

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