Buffalo Celebrates "Topping Off" of SolarCity Gigafactory
Congressman Brian Higgins joined Governor Andrew M. Cuomo in the “topping off” ceremony of the new, 1.2 million-square-foot SolarCity GigaFactory, which will manufacture solar panels at the RiverBend site in South Buffalo. As part of the ceremony, the Governor signed a steel beam that was raised into place atop the rapidly developing facility, commemorating the significant milestone for the project that broke ground just 11 months ago. The project will create nearly 3,000 jobs in Western New York and a total of nearly 5,000 jobs in the state. The SolarCity facility will be the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere, with one gigawatt of annual solar capacity when it reaches full production.
The project’s impact on the local economy has already been significant with approximately 450 construction workers currently on site and with the number expected to grow to nearly 1,500 by the fall. Construction jobs in the Buffalo Niagara region are at their highest point since 1990.
“Today, Buffalo has reached a new high,” said Governor Cuomo. “On the gravesite of the old economy, where Republic Steel once stood, now rises a beautiful monument to Buffalo’s future. This community built back from difficult conditions and hard times, and now, as the new RiverBend takes shape, it has become a national model of resurgence. This project shows the heart and skill and ability that made Buffalo great, and I am proud to be joining you as we move forward into a brighter future for Western New York.”
With the facility’s “core and shell” substantially complete, work will soon commence on the interior fit out process, including installation of specialized solar panel manufacturing equipment. When completed, the Gigafactory is expected to produce approximately 10,000 solar panels daily. SolarCity will produce Silevo’s high-technology Triex solar panel technology, which has demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost. And as previously announced, SolarCity will create over 1,450 direct manufacturing jobs at the new facility, and employ more than 2,000 additional workers in the state to provide solar services in the next five years. The facility will create more than 1,400 manufacturing support and service provider jobs in addition to the jobs that SolarCity creates directly.
SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said, “Governor Cuomo, SUNY Polytechnic Institute and the citizens in Buffalo are making history for clean energy today. We are especially grateful to the construction crews whose tireless work will enable us to complete our manufacturing facility on time.”
Dr. Alain Kaloyeros, President and Chief Executive Officer of SUNY Polytechnic Institute, said, "Thanks to the pioneering vision and leadership of Governor Andrew Cuomo, New York's high-tech corridor that extends all the way from Albany to Buffalo continues to blossom and flourish. Today we witness a milestone not only in the construction of this world class facility but in the continued development of the 21st century economy of this region and this state. SUNY Poly is proud to participate in such a worthy Governor’s initiative and to partner with Solar City to enable historic investment and job creation and further New York State's position as a global leader in innovation and next generation renewable energy technologies."
Howard Zemsky, President and CEO of Empire State Development said, “By building the biggest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere we are making a commitment to next-generation industries in Western New York. The SolarCity plant packs a powerful economic punch and the jobs created by this endeavor will support thousands of families in the region far into the future.”
Congressman Brian Higgins said, “The rising of SolarCity along the Buffalo River represents the new Western New York, one that embraces our manufacturing roots and trademark dedicated workforce but evolves to meet the demands of today’s economy. More than one hundred years ago Buffalo earned the nickname ‘City of Light’ as one of the first cities turning water into power. Now, as home to SolarCity’s manufacturing hub, Buffalo is again at the forefront of clean power production, turning the sun’s energy into economic opportunity.”
Senator Tim Kennedy said, “Today brings us one step closer to the opening of the SolarCity factory, and one step closer to thousands of new good-paying jobs in Western New York. I am proud to join Governor Cuomo, whose vision and dedication brought SolarCity to Buffalo, as we raise the final beam to the rafters of what will be the largest solar panel manufacturing facility in the Western Hemisphere. It truly is a great day for Western New York.”
Assemblywoman Crystal Peoples-Stokes said, “Today’s ceremony highlights a milestone in Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion Investment Initiative. A few years ago when the project was in the works we all couldn’t imagine this amazing structure here in South Buffalo. The steel beam signed by Governor Cuomo serves as metaphor for his hands on approach to Buffalo’s resurgence. The jobs are already created in construction of the facility, but also candidates being screened by the Department of Labor. I look forward to touring the interior of Solar City facility with Governor Cuomo as he continues to bring excitement to the Queen City.”
Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz said, “Today, we celebrate not just the topping off of a building, but in some ways the cementing of the foundation for a better future for all. On this location men used to forge steel from fire, and now products will be produced here that will harness the energy of a different fire - our sun – to create a better tomorrow for all. As Solar City takes shape and transforms a post-industrial site into a thriving solar panel manufacturing hub, Erie County’s transformation into a clean- and green-technology hub comes into clearer focus. Thank you to Governor Cuomo and all who made this day a reality; working together we are creating a world class community based on state of the art technology in our own backyard.”
“Today’s topping-off ceremony at RiverBend is a magnificent milestone. In less than a year, work at SolarCity has entered the home stretch,” said Mayor Byron Brown, noting that when his administration acquired this property for the City of Buffalo in 2008 for $4.6 million, it was with the belief that this valuable investment would contribute to the rebirth of our City. "Under Governor Cuomo’s leadership, today’s achievement continues the positive momentum that’s occurring right now in Buffalo as we continue to revitalize all of our neighborhoods and further improve the lives of all of our residents."
Paul Brown, President of Buffalo Building Trades Council said, “This is a very good time for construction workers in Western New York. Governor Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion has resulted in towering cranes and the rise of steel framework at multiple locations, including SolarCity. This job is contributing to the boom we are seeing by providing work for 1,500 construction workers."
Louis Ciminelli, Chairman and CEO of LPCiminelli, said, “We are very proud to be leading the Solar City project that is turning Governor Cuomo’s vision for the new Buffalo into a reality. I want to thank our team and all the subcontractors and tradespeople who have done a tremendous job through some difficult conditions to keep us on track to achieve today’s milestone.”
The SolarCity GigaFactory will be located at the Buffalo High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub at RiverBend, a new START-UP NY site owned by SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Since RiverBend was first unveiled in November 2013 by Governor Cuomo, SolarCity purchased Silevo, one of the initial designated anchor RiverBend tenants, and assumed an agreement with the State to increase the manufacturing capability of the clean energy facility more than fivefold. Silevo is a company that develops and manufactures high-efficiency silicon solar cells and modules.
SolarCity, the nation's largest solar power provider, will spend or incur approximately $5 billion over the next decade in connection with the creation and operation of the facility in New York, and New York State will invest a total of $750 million through the Buffalo Billion and other state resources to establish infrastructure, construct the 1.2 million square foot facility and purchase required equipment. The state investment will replicate the model created in Albany at the College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, in which rather than giving money directly to private companies, the State invests in core infrastructure and equipment and uses that equipment as the incentive to attract companies to establish themselves in these new high-tech facilities. The factory will be online and in high volume manufacturing as early as the first quarter of 2016 and is expected to reach full capacity operation by the first quarter of 2017.
Under the terms of the build-to-suit lease arrangement between the state and SolarCity, the company is required to achieve specific operational milestones during the initial 10-year term of the lease, which include employing a certain number of employees at the facility and within the State of New York within specified time periods following the completion of the facility. The Company is also required to spend or incur approximately $5 billion in combined capital, operational expenses and other costs in the State of New York over the 10 years following full production capacity.
In June, Area Development, a national trade publication covering site selection and facility planning, selected the SolarCity development project at RiverBend as the magazine’s 2014 Economic Development Project of the Year in New York State.
The project development is led by LP Ciminelli as Construction Management along with EYP, Project Architect; CHA, Civil Engineer; and M+W Group, Mechanical Engineer.
SolarCity’s decision to invest and grow in Western New York comes on the heels of increasingly good economic news for Buffalo and Western New York the Buffalo region. The region’s job growth through the first six months of 2015 grew by 1.7 percent, almost double the growth rate from all of 2014 and private sector employment is at an all-time high. Construction jobs are at their highest point since 1990, the region’s finance sector has been growing for five years and hiring for professional and business services jobs is at a 24-year high. The region has recovered all jobs lost in the Great Recession.