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SolarCity will say more next month about massive Riverbend project

by chocieni
Thu, Jul 24th 2014 08:00 am

 Analysts expect SolarCity to elaborate on its acquisition of Silevo at its second quarter earnings call, which will take place around Aug. 7.


The acquisition was announced June 16, and has huge implications for Western New York -- even though both companies are from California.


That's because SolarCity plans to use Silevo's technology to build one of the largest solar-panel production plants in the world at Riverbend Commerce Park in Buffalo. The proposed park is being created through Gov. Andrew Cuomo's Buffalo Billion initiative, and will be supported by more than $200 million of public infrastructure.


If the plant comes to fruition, it will almost certainly make Buffalo a prominent region in the high-stakes, years-long battle to make solar energy competitive with fossil fuel.


SolarCity's chairman, Elon Musk, has said Silevo's high-output, low-cost technology shows the potential to make solar competitive without the huge government subsidies on which it currently survives. Despite a glut of panels today, Musk, CEO London Rive and CTO Peter Rive said in a June 16 blog post on SolarCity's website that the manufacturing plant will address the projected future market.


"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," they wrote.


Since June, there hasn't been much news from the players involved. Cuomo has said he's had positive talks with Musk, but warned that the project is extremely competitive and that other states are in pursuit. SolarCity is an intensely scrutinized company, which is a function of its highly subsidized industry and also of solar power's world-changing potential -- if it ever makes economic sense. Its last earnings call was May 7 -- before the Silevo acquisition set off a continuing round of speculation about how it would be financed and the impacts in Buffalo, the United States and the international solar industry.


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