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Solar Company to Receive Hydropower to Locate Facility in Western New York: NYPA Trustees Approve Low-Cost Power Allocation That Will Create Jobs and Investment

Michael Saltzman 
(914) 390-8181 

June 30, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                           

LEWISTON--New York Power Authority (NYPA) President and Chief Executive Officer Richard M. Kessel announced Tuesday that Sunworks Solar LLC has been allocated low-cost hydropower to encourage the construction and operation of a $200 million solar panel manufacturing plant in Western New York to create 175 permanent clean energy jobs and 300 construction jobs. 

At their meeting today at NYPA’s Niagara Power Project Power Vista, the NYPA Trustees approved an allocation of five megawatts (mw) for the construction of a plant to produce high-tech, low-cost, thin-film silicon photovoltaic (PV) solar panels.  When completed, the facility would manufacture ready-to-deploy solar panels for the commercial, government and utility solar markets. 

“This allocation demonstrates how the strategic use of clean, renewable hydropower to manufacture solar products supports New York State’s efforts to address the region’s energy and economic development needs, while also helping to combat global climate change,” Governor David A. Paterson said.  

“Our hydropower allocation to Sunworks Solar is a great opportunity to support the efforts of Governor Paterson for creating new clean energy jobs around the state as part of his vision for promoting high-tech industries and the state’s recovery from the severe effects of the national recession,” Michael J. Townsend, NYPA chairman, said.  “The Power Authority is delighted to make this low-cost power allotment and looks forward to Sunwork Solar’s identification of an appropriate Western New York site for its manufacturing facility.” 

“We are pleased to partner with NYPA as we work towards building a solar panel manufacturing facility in Western New York,” Brian Robertson, CEO of Sunworks, said.  “NYPA’s allocation of low-cost hydropower has attracted us to consider a sizable investment in the future of the Buffalo-Niagara Frontier region.  This program enhances New York’s competitiveness as it seeks to attract the capital intensive Green Jobs that are in demand around the world.”  

“This is another example of how NYPA resources are strategically used to both advance the growth of the clean energy sector in New York State and to help stimulate the Western New York economy,” Kessel said. “This allocation, together with NYPA’s other efforts such as the Great Lakes Offshore Wind project, the 100-mw solar project and the photovoltaic project with the University at Buffalo, has the great potential to position the Niagara Frontier as the focal point for the new clean energy economy.”

Kessel noted that NYPA’s efforts are consistent with Governor Paterson’s innovative plan for New York to meet 45 percent of its electricity needs through improved energy efficiency and clean, renewable energy by 2015 (“45 by 15” plan).

Sunworks Solar considers low-cost electricity critical for managing its costs in competing with offshore manufacturers that are also engaged in solar panel production. Although the company has been considering multiple sites in the Northeast for its new facility, it has indicated that Western New York is an optimal location because of the region’s proximity to fast growing markets.

Sunworks Solar estimates that its fully operational facility in Western New York could eventually result in as many as 1,300 jobs in various parts of the state, including necessary supply chain support, as well as jobs related to the installation and maintenance of its solar panels.

Although plans are still being finalized, construction on the facility could begin as early as the spring of 2010 and be completed by the summer of 2011.

The hydropower allocation to Sunworks Solar will be drawn from a block of Niagara power known as Replacement Power, one of two large amounts of industrial power from the project that are reserved under New York State law for Western New York businesses. The other block of power is called Expansion Power.  Together, they combine for about one-third of Niagara’s firm generating output, with some 39,000 jobs in the region directly tied to the allocations of power under the two programs.

The allocation to Sunworks Solar follows many other efforts by NYPA to create clean energy jobs in Western New York and throughout the state.  Included in those efforts are:

An allocation of 40 mw in May 2008 to Globe Specialty Metals for the company’s reopening and expansion of a facility in Niagara Falls that will include the investment of $60 million in a facility that will manufacture silicon for solar power systems and will create 500 jobs;

An allocation of 650 kilowatts last March to Precision Electro Minerals Co., a Niagara Falls manufacturer of fused silica for solar-panel grade silicon and other industrial products that will create 13 new jobs and bring about the return to service and upgrade of two idled furnaces;

The Great Lakes Offshore Wind project, for advancing the development of wind power projects in the New York State waters of Lake Erie and Lake Ontario that would create at least 120 mw of clean energy and act as the catalyst to spur clean energy jobs throughout the region;

An up-to 100-mw  photovoltaic solar project, with installations at various sites throughout New York, and which will position the state with the second highest PV-installed capacity in the country; and NYPA’s commitment to invest $1.4 billion by 2015 in energy efficiency projects, which will cut energy costs at schools, hospitals and other public facilities and provide increased opportunities for clean energy employment throughout the state.

The Power Authority’s two trustees from Erie County—D. Patrick Curley of Orchard Park and Elise M. Cusack of Eggertsville—were among the board members on Tuesday voting unanimously for the hydropower allocation to Sunworks Solar.

“The Power Authority is excited by the prospect of Sunworks Solar coming to Western New York from our allocation of Niagara hydropower,” Curley said.  “In effect, we’re using one form of renewable energy for producing another, contributing to the state’s efforts under Governor Paterson toward greater alternative energy use, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and attracting businesses at the cutting edge of green technologies.”       

“The hydropower allocation approved today for Sunworks Solar is an outstanding example of the Power Authority’s resolve under Governor Paterson to help diversify Western New York’s economy by helping to establish new industries, particularly those engaged in clean energy,” Cusack said. “This is something we’ve been applying our best efforts toward in our allocations of hydropower. It is gratifying to see we’re making progress on this front, in cooperation with local and state economic development agencies.”

The Western New York Advisory Group Advisory Group (WNAG), consisting of the Power Authority, National Grid, Empire State Development Corp., the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise and the Niagara County Department of Economic Development, supported the Sunworks Solar allocation.  The WNAG was established in 2003 to help identify qualified companies for the available amounts of Replacement Power and Expansion Power. 

“The hydropower allocation by NYPA is the cornerstone of our efforts for bringing Sunworks Solar to Western New York,” said Thomas A. Kucharski, president and chief executive officer of the Buffalo Niagara Enterprise, a nonprofit regional marketing organization that has been assisting Sunworks with their project. “This will keep us on track in working with Sunworks to keep the cost of production globally competitive, and in identifying a suitable Western New York site for the facility’s construction and operation.”

About NYPA:

■    The New York Power Authority uses no tax money or state credit.  It finances its operations through the sale of bonds and revenues earned in large part through sales of electricity. ■    NYPA is a leader in promoting energy efficiency, new energy technologies and electric transportation initiatives.  ■    It is the nation's largest state-owned electric utility, with 18 generating facilities in various parts of New York State and more than 1,400 circuit-miles of transmission lines.  ■    About 75 percent of the electricity it produces is clean renewable hydropower.  Its lower-cost power production and electricity purchases support hundreds of thousands of jobs throughout the state.  ■   For more information,

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