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Logical foray into solar

Solar Logix joins Sault’s renewable energy sector

By Lindsay Kelly Northern Ontario Business, May 2012.

Riding in on the wave of renewable energy companies calling Sault Ste. Marie home, Solar Logix has joined the trend, taking a unique approach to local training and employment.

The company, which opened its Sault Ste. Marie office in September, is embarking on a partnership with the Batchewana First Nation on training programs that will eventually provide employment for residents of that community. Solar Logix is awaiting feedback on similar agreements with the Garden River and Pic Mobert First Nations.

In November, eight members of the Batchewana First Nation graduated as certified solar array installers for Solar Logix, and the intent is to hire those graduates to install solar arrays both on the reserve and in the greater Algoma community, said Gerry Bugyra, Solar Logix SSM’s general manager.

“We’re looking forward to closer ties and closer relationships with the First Nations,” Bugyra said. “Working towards sustainability has always been my goal with First Nations. There is a lot of opportunity there for us to do work with them, so we’re doing very well. We have a very good relationship with these folks.”

Beyond work in solar array installation, Bugyra believes the economic development generated from the solar array installations will result in additional small business spinoff opportunities for community members.

Bugyra is no stranger to small business development. A son of Wawa, Bugyra started out his career as an underground diesel mechanic before returning to school for a business administration degree. He oversaw a series of retail outlets before embarking on the most ambitious of his ventures: a pellet business that used Waste from three Wawa-area mills.

That business fell through before it could get off the ground, but it didn’t deter Bugyra from seeking out new enterprises. He strongly believes solar energy will be a major contributor to Ontario’s power supply.

“My career at this point, to be where I am, I think everything I’ve done in the last 30 years has prepared me for his job,” he said. “I want to give my all to this company because I really think that they’re well placed in the industry.”

Although currently awaiting approval of rates for new solar energy projects from the Ontario Power Authority (OPA), Solar Logix has quickly moved to pick up projects already approved through the province’s Feed-in Tariff program, including a 90 kilowatt (kw) flat roof-mount solar array at Ecole Notre Dame des Grand Lacs.

Bugyra estimates the company has 50 projects pending OPA approval, but in the meantime, is offering clients free pre-feasibility studies in the lead up to approval. The company additionally offers 10-year unconditional guarantees for all their installations, and will repair the system at cost if anything goes wrong with it.

The Sault office employs 15 people in sales, installation, engineering and site assessment, but as business increases, Bugyra expects to hire another 10 to 15 people to fill out an additional two or three crews.

With its head office in Thunder Bay, other locations include Oakville, Hamilton, Ottawa and Sudbury. The catchment area of the Sault office stretches from Wawa to Blind River and up to Chapleau.

“They’re a young company, but they’re very aggressive and they’re well place in the market,” Bugyra said. “They have six divisions throughout Ontario and they’re looking at opening another three to four in the next year or so, so they have some good plans.”

A big supporter of local business, Bugyra noted that all six Solar Logix divisions purchase solar panels solely from Sault-based Heliene and aims to do the bulk of its buying from Sault businesses.

Address critics who suggest the solar energy industry has been too thoroughly subsidized by the provincial government, Bugyra points to the bailouts offered to the automotive industry in recent years. By investing in subsidies, Ontarians are investing in job creation, he said.

“It’s all about jobs,” Bugyra said. “There’s a big future in job generation in the solar industry, and what industry hasn’t been subsidized one way or the other?”

Though he doesn’t foresee a day when renewable energy overcomes fossil fuels as Ontario’s primary source of power, Bugyra does believe it could be on par with it. The province’s renewable energy sector should be further evolved than it is now, said Bugyra, who’d like to see the adoption of the Feed-in Tariff program right across Canada.

“When you look at a 10 kW system, you can actually end up paying, over the term of the contract, almost one third of your mortgage,” Bugyra said. “So if you can have the sun help pay for your mortgage, what an investment.”

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