'Advanced solar products' to be developed at Edmonton airport

· The Pulse
By Jackson Spring

Solar LED manufacturer WeFaces Technology Inc. is setting up its North American headquarters in Edmonton International Airport's (EIA) Airport City, as part of a partnership to develop and manufacture solar technology.

“EIA has entered a strategic partnership to help WeFaces begin research and development as well as the mass production of advanced solar panel lighting systems," said a Feb. 17 press release. The plan is for WeFaces to set up a product showroom and begin research by this fall, and start manufacturing by 2022.

Myron Keehn, EIA's vice president of air service and business development, said WeFaces' products could have a wide range of applications, from street lamps and landscape lighting, to heated bus shelters and pumps for water ponds — all solar-powered.

"You'll see those types of products being used here at the airport, and by anyone else in the region that's interested," he said.

The airport's press release also claims the partnership will "generate long-term jobs, drive advanced solar panel manufacturing opportunities, (plus) diversify and grow Alberta’s economy."

Malcolm Bruce, CEO of Edmonton Global, agreed in the press release that WeFaces’ presence will have a noticeable impact on the Edmonton region's economy.

Keehn explained that WeFaces, a subsidiary of China-based Nande Solar Energy Technology Co., Ltd., chose Edmonton's Airport City for its new headquarters because of the collection of existing green technology companies, resources, and incubators operating in the area.

"We have worked to develop Airport City as a sustainability campus," he said. "What they were attracted to was the ecosystem this has created on the airport, around the airport, and within the region."

The partnership with WeFaces is part of the airport's long-term effort to help develop sustainable technology. (City of Edmonton)

The partnership with WeFaces is part of the airport's long-term effort to help develop sustainable technology. (City of Edmonton)

The EIA has entered partnerships with a number of other green technology companies over the past few years, from solar power and fuel alternatives, to hemp farming and plant-based plastics. Last summer, EIA partnered with German solar technology company Alpin Sun, to manufacture what the airport said would be the "world's largest airport solar farm," with over 340,000 solar panels spanning 627 acres.

The companies with ongoing projects will help WeFaces since they already have access to a manufacturing base and customers for green technology, and they can supplement the company's research, Keehn explained.

"There is synergy between the projects because they are in the same sort of space," he said.

"Collaboration with EIA will enable us to quickly develop our solar energy and intelligent control technologies and expand in the global market," said Vilens Lin, CEO of WeFaces Technology Inc.

This new partnership, and the other green technology, are part of the EIA's larger commitment to sustainability, which has helped the airport cut its energy intensity in half over the past 20 years, and obtain a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

"We're not doing this ourselves," Keehn said.

"All these companies are coming together in this ecosystem to create these opportunities."