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4/22/2014 2:35:44 PM

The Buffalo News: Another solar panel maker interested in Western New York

The Buffalo News

A second solar panel manufacturer is showing interest in opening a factory in the Buffalo Niagara region as part of the state’s efforts to develop a clean energy hub in Western New York.

Solar Frontier, a Japanese company that makes solar panels, has signed an agreement to explore the possibility of the manufacturer opening a solar module factory at a site in Western New York, while also setting up the company’s North American headquarters at the SUNY College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering in Albany.

If a future deal is struck to locate the factory and the North American headquarters in New York – and there’s no guarantee that it will – the company could create as many as 250 research, development and manufacturing jobs in the state, with a total investment, including payroll, that approaches $678 million over seven years.

If Solar Frontier eventually decides to build a factory in Western New York, it would join Silevo, a Fremont, Calif., solar panel manufacturer that has agreed to become one of the first two tenants in the RiverBend clean energy technology hub in South Buffalo, as the second solar cell producer in the region.

Another California-based company, LED lighting producer Soraa, also has agreed to set up a production and research center in the RiverBend complex on the former Republic Steel site, which is one of the signature projects under the state’s Buffalo Billion initiative to jump-start the long-sagging Buffalo Niagara economy with fast-growing, technology-based businesses.

State officials described Solar Frontier’s collaboration with the nanoscience college as an important step in the company’s plans to establish production facilities outside Japan, where it currently produces all of its modules.

“Solar Frontier recognizes New York is uniquely capable of supporting the level of research, development and manufacturing it requires,” said Alain Kaloyeros, the chief executive officer of the nanoscience college, in a statement Tuesday.

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