SolarCity's Future Bright; Hiring Underway As Plant Rises Toward Completion

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Aside from a few clusters of workers, parts of the future SolarCity plant looked almost empty this week, but it's easy to spread out when you're working in an area that covers 1.2 million square feet, even when there's 950 crew members on site.

"We're pulling a lot of people from Western New York and even having some people travel from Albany to make this happen," said LP Ciminelli Project Manager David Vawter.

SolarCity officials say construction jobs are just the beginning. By next year, Senior Vice President of Operations Steve James expects 500 people will work here. Hiring has already started for management, engineering, and facilities positions to help bring the plant online, and James says the welcome for manufacturing jobs went beyond what the company anticipated.

"It resonates with them, and they know what that means, and they know those are good jobs, they know what the jobs are about. It's part of the DNA, I think, of the Buffalo area," said James.

As for demand, James says SolarCity projects 40 percent growth for 2016.

"Our internal demand for what we install ourselves will be much higher than what this factory can produce, so unlike a lot of other manufacturing sectors, certainly the indications are that we will be full from the beginning, that everything we can make will be sold right away," he said.

James says this plant will be unique not just because of its size, but because of the equipment it will use. SolarCity acquired panel manufacturer Silevo, which he says uses the most advanced solar manufacturing equipment designed specifically for the plant's needs.

"One of the reasons we can do this in North America as opposed to Asia is that we can be cost-competitive because of our equipment knowledge and we can design the plant in such a way that it can be very, very efficient," James said.

As of right now, it looks like that design will be a reality in just about six months.

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