* Plant estimated to cost C$24 million
* First phase of operations seen in 2010
* Shares climb 4.3 pct to $23.93 on Nasdaq (Adds details, updates stock price)
OTTAWA, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Canadian Solar Inc (CSIQ.O) said on Thursday it plans to build a C$24 million ($22.9 million) plant to manufacture solar panels in the province of Ontario, taking advantage of rich incentives for renewable power projects.
The Chinese company said it has begun site selection for a facility to make 200 megawatt modules. The plant is expected to create 500 manufacturing jobs and turn out enough capacity to power 60,000 homes per year.
Built in stages, with the first phase of operations scheduled to start in 2010, the plant will be one of North America’s largest solar manufacturing facilities once completed, the company said.
“When considering Ontario for our next investment in manufacturing, we looked at the strength of R&D and the government’s commitment to investing in a low-carbon economy,” said Milfred Hammerbacher, president of subsidiary company Canadian Solar Solutions Inc.
Ontario launched North America’s most comprehensive and generous set of feed-in tariffs in October, which guarantee sellers of electricity produced from the sun, wind, water and biomass fixed, above-market prices for 20 years.
Premium prices help developers recoup start-up costs, while rate certainty increases banks’ comfort in making loans.
Currently, there is scant solar equipment production in Canada, with the exception of a handful of companies such as Day4 Energy Inc DFE.TO. Several firms have recently said they are considering production in the country, including South Korea’s Samsung Group [SAGR.UL], which is also eyeing Ontario.
Canadian Solar said it expects to finalize decisions about the plant site, cost and ultimate size in the first quarter of 2010.
The announcement comes after several Chinese solar companies signaled an uptick in third-quarter demand.
In November, Canadian Solar, Suntech Power Holdings Co Ltd STP.N and Trina Solar Ltd TSL.N posted higher than expected earnings and said demand for the green energy systems was rebounding after a dismal year. [ID:nN19165613]
Canadian Solar shares gained 4.3 percent, or 98 cents, to $23.93 on Nasdaq on Thursday. ($1=$1.06 Canadian) (Reporting by Susan Taylor and Adveith Nair in Bangalore; Editing by Deepak Kannan and Peter Galloway)) ((firstname.lastname@example.org; +1 613 235 8385; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com))