An innovative Ontario company, 6N Silicon Inc., has developed a revolutionary process to purify silicon for the solar power industry.
The global demand for renewable energy led to a three year shortage of supply and dramatic price hikes for silicon – a key ingredient in manufacturing solar panels. While new conventional silicon production is now coming on line, the conventional process remains a fundamental bottleneck. 6N Silicon’s process is designed to satisfy demands for cost-effective new capacity that can respond quickly to new demand. 6N Silicon’s process is also a better long-term fit with lower energy requirements and a smaller environmental footprint than current methods, creating sustainable jobs in a high-growth industry.
Since 2006 the company has grown from a basement operation, through a successful pilot project in Mississauga, to a $50 million production facility in Vaughan.
“Our process uses less energy, costs less, and is easier to scale up because it doesn’t require a large specialized facility. We take a completely different approach from traditional methods,” said Scott Nichol, the Founder and President of 6N Silicon.
The advantages of the 6N Silicon solution have generated ongoing interest and incentive offers from jurisdictions in the United States and Europe hungry for “green-collar” jobs. Two factors have motivated the company to locate in Ontario.
“We chose Ontario because of the highly skilled workforce and the tremendous ongoing support we have received in commercializing our technology,” said Paolo Maccario, CEO of 6N Silicon.
Ontario is home to a skilled and diverse workforce, and has the highest rate of post-secondary education among industrialized countries. Many of 6N’s employees previously held skilled positions in the province’s auto sector, including Maccario himself.
The province has played an important role in 6N’s rapid growth. In May 2008, the company received a grant of $1.5 million from Ontario’s Innovation Demonstration Fund, a program that focuses on the commercialization and initial demonstration of globally competitive leading-edge technologies. The support helped 6N to launch a pilot project to demonstrate the advantages of their technology to investors. When it came time to build their production facility in Vaughan, the province stepped up with support from the Next Generation of Jobs Fund.
The company is well on its way to achieving its goal of becoming the lowest-cost provider of solar-grade silicon for the solar power industry; providing a “Made in Ontario” solution to the increasing global demand for renewable energy.
And it’s the province’s skilled workforce and commitment to innovation that is helping 6N reach that goal.