New York Governor Takes a Big Bet on Solar Power

October 28, 2015 AT 11:10 AM

On the often cloudy shores of the Buffalo River, where a steel factory once thrived, lies the rising framework of one of New York’s most ambitious economic endeavors ever: a giant solar panel factory that the state says will be the largest of its kind in the Western Hemisphere.

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo has committed up to $750 million to the project, the biggest economic development effort he has undertaken in his five years as governor.

In doing so, he has not just bet big on solar energy, a competitive and rapidly growing business, but also on the success of SolarCity, a fast-growing California company that will operate out of the factory that the New York State will own.

The potential benefits seem substantial: The state has said the 1.2 million-square-foot SolarCity factory, which is scheduled to open in early 2016, will create 5,000 jobs, with 3,000 of them in western New York.

If the demand for solar power grows, and the companies the state has attracted are able to capitalize on that, then it could be well positioned to profit. Companies lured to New York by generous state grants have created jobs, often in struggling regions or cities like Buffalo. The government hopes a virtuous cycle will follow, and public money will attract private investment.

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