Buffalo breaks ground on largest solar panel facility in the Western Hemisphere

A model of SolarCity's plant.  (New York Governor's Office)

A model of SolarCity’s plant. (New York Governor’s Office)

Manufacturing is returning to Buffalo, New York in a big way. In late September, SolarCity broke ground on a 1.2-million-square-foot solar panel manufacturing plant that will be the biggest facility of its kind in the Western Hemisphere. The company, which Elon Musk chairs, is investing $5 billion into the project that will rise on the site of a former Republic Steel factory. When fully operational, the panels produced at the factory are expected to generate one gigawatt of energy, that’s roughly enough power to power 145,000 homes.

The groundbreaking ceremony in Buffalo. (New York Governor's Office)

The groundbreaking ceremony in Buffalo. (New York Governor’s Office)

New York State has also put forth significant funds for the project. “Under the deal with SolarCity,” explained the Buffalo News, “the state will spend $350 million to build the sprawling factory on South Park Avenue and provide $400 million in funding for equipment, with the state following the economic development model that it used to build up the semiconductor industry in the Albany area. Under that model, the state invests in state-of-the-art facilities and equipment that typically are too costly for companies to acquire on their own and then signs agreements with companies, like SolarCity, that want to access it.”

Rendering of the plant. (Courtesy SolarCity)

Rendering of the plant. (Courtesy SolarCity)

The facility is expected to open in 2016 and provide 3,000 jobs for the Buffalo region, according to the Cuomo administration.

Rendering of the plant. (Courtesy SolarCity)

Rendering of the plant. (Courtesy SolarCity)

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