Elon Musk, the investor-genius of the founding technology behind PayPal, the electronic supercar design and manufacturing company Tesla Motors, and next-generation flight company Space X, is kicking off a new venture: building one of the world’s largest solar panel factories.
In June 2014, SolarCity Corp., where Musk is Chairman of the Board, acquired Silevo, a smaller solar cell manufacturing company that was planning a large factory in in Western New York in conjunction with Governor Andrew M. Cuomo’s “Buffalo Billion” initiative at the developing RiverBend complex and the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering.
However, instead of simply riding Silevo’s commitment to produce a 200 megawatt factory, creating 475 new jobs in Buffalo, Musk’s organization upped the target manufacturing capacity by five times; SolarCity Corp. now intends to build a 1 gigawatt factory, which the company says will induce “well over 1,000 jobs.”
“Three years ago, few believed that we could bring the Buffalo economy roaring back to life,” Governor Cuomo said. “With today’s news, it is truly a sunny day in Buffalo: the prospect of thousands of new solar energy jobs coming to the region, marking another landmark investment and economic game-changer taking place in the new Western New York.”
The impact on the Buffalo community will likely be substantial: the jobs that will be created are manufacturing positions, which statistically aid the local economy better than, say, retail jobs. These economic effects will be even stronger given the fact that Buffalo has higher average unemployment and an aging population.
In addition, because the firm is working directly with the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering, industry experts will cross-collaborate between world-class research on solar technologies and SolarCity, as well as launch students directly into high-paying design and engineering positions within the firm.
Maxwell is the Coordinator of Digital Engagement for The State University of New York.