Earlier this week N.Y. Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) broke ground on the new SolarCity GigaFactory at Riverbend in South Buffalo. The new GigaFactory will make 1 gigawatt of solar PV modules annually, using technology developed by Silevo. Once completed it will be the largest PV manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere.
“We said four years ago that we have to change the mentality of Buffalo, and every day since we have been working hard to continue this new energy and momentum in Western New York,” Cuomo said at the groundbreaking. “Less than a year after announcing our original plan, one of the leading solar companies in the world is coming on board and making this the largest advancement for Buffalo's economy in a generation.”
“This is bigger than anything we could have imagined. It is the perfect metaphor for Buffalo, where the fundamental strength was the available hydropower,” Cuomo said. “That hydropower now, that renewable energy now, will fuel the renewable energy industry for the future.”
SolarCity purchased Silevo this past June for $350 million. The company is making PV cells in research and development that are more than 22.1 percent efficient and it has a road map that will lead to 24 percent efficiency, the level of SunPower’s PV cells. SunPower is among the leaders—if not the leader—in efficiency for silicon-based PV cells and modules.
SolarCity’s new manufacturing facility will allow Silevo’s technology to reach the market at a quicker pace than it otherwise would have. As soon as the first quarter of 2016 the 1 million square-foot factory will be online and in manufacturing at a high volume, according to the governor’s office. The project is expected to create 5,000 jobs in the state.
"Governor Cuomo shares our view that the United States can return to its place atop the world in advanced technology manufacturing,” said SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive. “Thanks to the governor’s leadership, we will be able to quintuple the output capacity and economic impact of Silevo’s original commitment.”
SolarCity plans to invest $5 billion in the new facility over the next 10 years. The state of New York is investing $750 million in the project as well, through Buffalo Billion and other economic development programs.
It’s the second piece of big news for solar manufacturing in the U.S. this week. Also this week Mission Solar Energy commenced manufacturing in San Antonio, Texas as well. It’s a remarkable turnaround for an industry that largely moved overseas where solar panels were being made less expensively than in the U.S.Tweet