SolarCity Gigafactory To Spark Manufacturing Revival In Buffalo

Time was when Buffalo, New York was an industrial powerhouse. With Lake Erie next door and the Erie Canal nearby, ready access to markets made Buffalo the ideal location for American industry. But manufacturing jobs in the area have been fleeing to other locations since the end of WW II.

To help jump start new industry in the area, the State of New York, in cooperation with SUNY Polytechnic Institute, has struck a deal with SolarCity, the solar energy company founded by Elon Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive. The state is investing $485 million into a Gigafactory in Buffalo that will manufacture up to 10,000 solar panels a day. In total, the state will invest as much as $750,000,000 to construct and equip the enormous factory.

SolarCity Gigafactory in Buffalo
SolarCity 12,000,000 square foot factory in Buffalo, New York. Credit: SolarCity





The State of New York will retain ownership of the 12,000,000 square foot manufacturing facility and lease it to Solar City. Company officials recently reported that the Gigafactory is nearly 90 percent complete and that it hopes to start installing equipment this summer. “Manufacturing is scheduled to begin in 2017,” Rive says. “SolarCity has committed to employ at least 1,460 people in the city of Buffalo, with 500 jobs at the manufacturing facility. We will employ a total of 5,000 people in New York state by the 10th anniversary of the completion of the facility.”

Those sorts of projections are how you get a state to build you a factory. The company has said it will spend $5 billion on capital, operations and supply-chain support over the next decade at the facility.

A month ago, Elon Musk stunned investors when he announced that Tesla Motors had offered to purchase SolarCity for $2.8 billion in Tesla stock. “We would be the world’s only vertically integrated energy company offering end-to-end clean energy products to our customers,” Tesla said of the deal on its company blog. “This would start with the car that you drive and the energy that you use to charge it, and would extend to how everything else in your home or business is powered.”

This week, the url teslamotors.com began redirecting to tesla.com. Elon Musk has promised to reveal what he calls his Master Plan Part 2 tonight at 5 pm PDT. The smart money says that it will focus on Tesla becoming more directly involved in ways to transition the world away from fossil fuels in favor of using free, renewable energy from the sun. Elon has called burning fossil fuels “The dumbest experiment in history.”

The State of New York apparently believes that solar power can create enough jobs to give the struggling economy of Buffalo a much needed boost.

Source: CNBC

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About the Author

writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Rhode Island. You can follow him on Google + and on Twitter.

  • J.H.

    The “Master Plan” I can’t wait, 2 hrs and counting!

    • Steve Hanley

      Please see today’s post about what the Master Plan means for solar power and traditional utility companies.

      • J.H.

        early X-Max