Tag Archives: Silevo

Everybody’s Dancing in a Ring Around the Sun

18 Jun

1,000 jobs for Buffalo. Maybe more.

Not 19th century dirty jobs, but 1,000 jobs that are part of the new green economy. This could be the best news that Buffalo has received in decades, because this is a real thing involving real jobs. SolarCity is buying Silevo. 

Last November, Governor Cuomo announced that the state would build a “hub facility” for high tech and green energy businesses at RiverBend, as part of his “Buffalo Billion” plan. One of the two California companies to locate at RiverBend is “Silevo”, which would join with another company to invest $1.5 billion and locate operations in Buffalo. 

RiverBend is in South Buffalo, located on the site of the former Republic Steel and and Donner Hanna Coke facilities. The city is literally replacing its defunct, dirty industries with clean, green, state-of-the-art ones. At the November presser, Silevo was introduced thusly

Silevo is a California-based company that develops and manufactures silicon solar cells and modules, with an already established manufacturing plant in China. Phase 1 of Silevo’s project, with a $750 million investment which will create at least 475 jobs, involves a 200 megawatt production facility sole establishing its sole North American manufacturing operations at RiverBend.

The state investment of $225 million through Empire State Development would set up the necessary water, sewer, utility, and road infrastructure, as well as 275,000 square feet of building.  The state will also set up the equipment, which would be owned by the SUNY Research Foundation. No money was being paid directly to the companies.   

Zheng Xu, CEO and Founder of Silevo said, “Inspired by the bold leadership and demonstrated commitment of Governor Cuomo, and buoyed by the strong regional infrastructure and highly skilled workforce present in Western New York, Silevo is excited to bring its next phase of high-volume manufacturing operations to the United States with our new location in Buffalo. Working closely with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, we look forward to accelerating innovative and cost-effective solar module technology that will position both Silevo and New York as leaders in driving the next wave of solar adoption in homes and business nationwide.”

 Yesterday, Tesla Motors and SpaceX wunderkind Elon Musk announced that his SolarCity venture was buying Silevo for $350 million

Peter Rive, SolarCity chief technology officer and co-founder, said the $350 million acquisition will lead to a factory in Buffalo, N.Y., and create more than 1,000 jobs within the next two years.

The plant will be “one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world,” according to the post, and it will be followed by one or more even bigger facilities in subsequent years. Rive said he hopes SolarCity will eventually create several thousand panel-making jobs.

On Twitter, Musk’s personal feed posted “SolarCity to build the world’s largest advanced solar panel factory in upstate New York” with a link to the blog post…

…Until now, SolarCity has purchased its solar panels from other manufacturers. Rive said the acquisition will finally allow the company to make its own photovoltaic panels.

Synergy!  The Buffalo News notes

That initial plant at RiverBend was envisioned to have the annual capacity to produce enough solar panels to generate 200 megawatts of electricity. But SolarCity executives said they were interested in expanding the capacity of that plant to be five times bigger than the original plan.

“At a targeted capacity greater than 1 gigawatt within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity,” SolarCity said.

SolarCity executives said they view the Silevo acquisition as a key step in their efforts to reduce the price of solar energy systems to the point where they can compete with electricity generated from fossil fuels without the lucrative subsidies that now are needed to offset the higher costs of solar panels.

By combining Silevo’s technology, which is more efficient at generating electricity than most other solar panels on the market today, with lower production costs from the economies of scale that come from high-volume production, SolarCity executives said they believe they can make solar systems more affordable.

“What we are trying to address is not the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs, but how we see the future developing,” the blog post said.

“Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed,” said the post.

Chinese companies and manufacturers dominate the global market for solar modules. Silevo and SolarCity intend to challenge that dominance by building the largest module manufacturer in the United States in South Buffalo.  

On the SolarCity company blog

[Silevo] modules have demonstrated a unique combination of high energy output and low cost. Our intent is to combine what we believe is fundamentally the best photovoltaic technology with massive economies of scale to achieve a breakthrough in the cost of solar power.

and

Given that there is excess supplier capacity today, this may seem counter-intuitive to some who follow the solar industry. What we are trying to address is not the lay of the land today, where there are indeed too many suppliers, most of whom are producing relatively low photonic efficiency solar cells at uncompelling costs, but how we see the future developing. Without decisive action to lay the groundwork today, the massive volume of affordable, high efficiency panels needed for unsubsidized solar power to outcompete fossil fuel grid power simply will not be there when it is needed.

The Buffalo plant’s planned capacity would be large enough to challenge the Chinese market with a superior product

SolarCity’s chairman who is also chief executive of Tesla Motors, said the goal is to produce solar panels capable of generating power “cheaper than coal or fracked gas power.”

Imagine a factory in Buffalo producing something that could render hydrofracking and Tonawanda Coke the NRG Huntley plant obsolete, and 1,000+ jobs, to boot. SolarCity does not yet operate in western New York, but it leases solar systems to homeowners and businesses. 

As solar systems improve in terms of energy production and storage, adoption will grow. SolarCity is setting itself up to dominate the market with a superior system that will save people money and provide sustainable, renewable energy. This is a huge deal for Buffalo and the country.