Green energy announcement coming


When Ontario takes the wraps off a $7-billion blockbuster deal in green energy today, region offi- cials will be watching closely.

The province is partnering with South Korean manufacturer Samsung Group, which will make renewable energy technology here -- such as wind turbines -- and develop wind and solar farms in Ontario.

It's not known what the impact will be for Southwestern Ontario -- but the fallout will be felt.

"This will have an impact all around us," said Vinay Sharma, chief executive of London Hydro.

Sharma said he wouldn't be surprised to see some manufacturing in Southwestern Ontario because the area is rich in research in renewable energy, as well as skilled workers.

"We are a natural site, not necessarily in London, but the region may attract it."

The vacant Sterling truck plant in St. Thomas has been mentioned by St. Thomas politicians as a possible site for an alternative energy plant that has drawn attention from potential buyers in recent weeks.

Bob Wheeler, head of economic development in St. Thomas, declined comment on the Samsung deal as did Joe Preston, MP for Elgin-Middlesex-London.

As for London, there are 23 research projects related to renewable energy ongoing at the University of Western Ontario, and funded in part by London Hydro, he added.

Media reports yesterday said Samsung wants to develop projects in Chatham-Kent, as well as Essex County and Haldimand. That came as news to Chatham- Kent Mayor Randy Hope.

"All I can say is we are a leader in alternative energy and whether that benefits us, we will have to wait and see. Your guess is as good as mine," Hope said.

Peter White, chief executive of the London Economic Development Corp. (LEDC), said the city is not on the province's or Samsung's radar, because they're looking for more rural development.

"I am hearing they are looking at the region -- they have been scouting everything west of Brantford," White said.

LEDC officials were in South Korea in November but the city hasn't been involved in talks with the province or Samsung, he added.

But there might still be a benefit to London, he conceded.

"We anticipate this may bring benefits to some areas of the province and we may be part of that," White said.

The Samsung deal is expected to generate 2,500 megawatts of renewable energy.

The South Korean consortium is also expected to operate four manufacturing plants in Ontario, with the first three to build wind turbine towers, solar inverters and to assemble solar modules. They are to be operational within four years.

A fourth plant, which will build the giant wind blades, will open shortly after the other three, said the source.

But even if manufacturing doesn't land here, it's a good news announcement for the province, Sharma said.

"This will bring more renewable energy to Ontario," he said.