Morgan Solar: Challenging the sun
Solar energy, either thermal or photovoltaic, has become the fastest-growing alternative energy technology globally. It is popular because it provides individuals and corporations with the ability to make an individual effort towards reducing the effects of climate change.
Since October 2003, Ontario has added more than 1,200 megawatts of new, renewable generation, including more than 150 solar projects of varying sizes, including residential systems and small arrays on commercial buildings, institutions and schools.
In 2010 alone, Ontario installed 168 megawatts of solar photovoltaic capacity, surpassing New Jersey as the second leading North American jurisdiction for new solar projects during that year. Ontario could soon surpass California in annual installations if recent growth rates continue. This is good news for investors who are interested in Ontario, as opportunities continually grow for renewable energy generators and for manufacturers of renewable energy products and services.
One great example of the opportunities that abound for innovation and growth in Ontario is a firm called Morgan Solar. Still a start-up, Morgan Solar has nevertheless lured one of the world's top solar industry executives to be its CEO and received financial backing from one of the world's largest wind and solar energy firms. Morgan Solar's made-in-Ontario breakthrough technology will soon start delivering competitively priced solar power – a multi-billion-dollar enterprise.
"I'm serious," says Morgan Solar president John Paul Morgan who started the Toronto-based company in 2007, shortly after returning from a life-changing year in Africa. "We expect to be earning billions within the decade. The market is there."
Indeed, worldwide solar energy production has increased by nearly 4,000 per cent in this century's first decade and is expected to top $100 billion next year. Much of that growth was spurred by incentive and subsidized pricing encouraged by environmentally sensitive governments. "But solar companies dependent on subsidies are not likely to survive the long run," says Morgan. "We adopted an entirely different model."
From its inception, Morgan Solar's goal was to provide solar power at prices competitive with other energy sources, or at grid parity. "We're already there when it comes to high-priced markets such as California, the Middle East and island nations that rely on oil for electricity," Morgan says. "We're almost there with natural gas and we are on our way to matching coal."
The company's future is built on its innovative technology, cheaper materials and smarter production techniques. Morgan is a University of Toronto engineering graduate with a specialty in optics and a life-long fascination with solar power, heightened by service in the Democratic Republic of Congo with Médecins Sans Frontières as a hospital administrator.
Morgan Solar president John Paul Morgan
"In Africa, I saw how a lack of access to electricity and to affordable energy in general was a barrier to development and better lives for the people there," says Morgan. "At the same time, I knew that a tremendous amount of energy from the sun is simply wasted on the ground. I felt that solar power's technical problems were soluble.
"Economical solar power is more than just liberating us from fossil fuels and delivering clean energy. It's also an opportunity to provide less expensive energy that will take millions of people out of darkness. It's a force for positive change."
After leaving Africa, Morgan started studying photovoltaics on his own. Within months he began securing patents for his unique way of concentrating sunlight. Morgan had developed a special optic lens that catches incoming light and directs it in a concentrated form to a high-efficiency solar cell. The lens and accompanying system is so powerful that the energy efficiency rate is 25 per cent, almost double the industry standard of about 14 per cent.
Morgan's groundbreaking discovery attracted the attention of American Asif Ansari, a legend in the solar power industry. Among Ansari's 20 start-up successes in the cleantech and aerospace industries were four in solar energy. Once, he persuaded Google to invest US$10 million in one of his ventures, eSolar Inc., a California-based solar thermal technology powerhouse. When Ansari last year examined first hand what Morgan Solar had achieved, he agreed readily to move to Toronto and take on the company's reins. "When I saw what they had achieved," recalls Ansari, "I knew they were on to something, that this could be a real game-changer."
Ansari brought immediate international credibility to the small start-up. About the same time, Morgan Solar landed a second major investment from Iberdrola, Spain's major energy company and a global leader in alternative energy. And last November, North American energy-delivery powerhouse Enbridge Inc. invested $10 million in Morgan Solar, its first investment in solar technology.
But Morgan Solar has even more than scientific leadership, much of it developed in collaboration with a lab at the University of Ottawa, that sets it apart from the pack. For its smaller – and more efficient – Sun Simba solar panels, the company sought and found cheaper materials that worked as well or better than those used by competitors. And it rejected a customized manufacturing process for injection moulding commonly used to produce auto parts and televisions.
Explains Morgan: "We are producing solar energy cheaper through vastly lower raw material costs, and the panels can be made through simple, automated processes at existing manufacturing facilities."
Another Morgan Solar advantage down the road – the panels are fully recyclable after their 20-year lifespan.
Today, the company is focusing its sales efforts on large companies that have a major energy stake. It expects to announce a flurry of contracts throughout 2012, beginning in the spring and summer. Morgan says the company's first customers will be outside Canada in jurisdictions where there are no subsidies for solar power. "We can stand on our own," he says.
Eventually, Morgan Solar wants to capture the consumer market. Declares Morgan: "We want to be on every roof top where the sun shines."
For more on Morgan Solar, please visit: www.morgansolar.com.