BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) — Despite what’s been a rocky summer for one of the world’s largest solar panel manufacturers — and an equally shaky six months for the state funding its plant on South Park Avenue — Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Wednesday shook off rumors about lower job projections and the future viability of the company.
“I am just blown away by this facility,” he said smiling. “It is just so powerful in its reality,”
Cuomo toured the grand jewel of his Buffalo Billion plan, taking time to see first-hand what $750 million dollars buys these days. As part of his second stop in Buffalo Wednesday morning, the governor walked a portion of the 1.2 million-square-foot space at SolarCity.
Late last month, the green energy giant has made headlines after Tesla won anti-trust approval to buy them for 2.6 billion dollars.
What followed was SolarCity’s admission last week that it was low on cash, and was at one point considering selling off the solar panel portion of its business.
“This manufacturer dominates the market, so I think we are exactly where we need to be,” Cuomo said. “This is an economy that changes all the time. That is the nature of the beast, unfortunately.
“This is a long term strategy and what we’re betting on, what the world is betting on, is alternative energy sources, and solar is going to be chief among them,” he said.
Because of its financial position, reports have surfaced that original job expectations at the RiverBend project of 1,500 workers was set to be scaled back, and that the number could be closer to 500.
“I think we start, we get up to 500 people and we keep going,” said Howard Zemsky, president and CEO of the Empire State Development Corp. “You’re talking about the No. 1 market share company, and you’re talking about an incredibly rapidly growing industry.”
Company officials appeared more clear.
“To set the record straight, we have not changed any job commitment that we’ve made to western New York, Buffalo or the state of New York,” said Joe Mendelson, the director of policy and electric markets for SolarCity. “In fact, we are committed to employing 1,500 people in Buffalo.”
Cuomo said those reports are the reflection of a fluid green energy market, rather than the company falling short on its promises.
In addition to assurances, Mendelson said the company is ahead of schedule for production, with officials saying panels could be produced on the city’s south side as early as the second quarter of 2017.