MIT Technology Review tells readers about the amazing rebirth in Buffalo.
In a industrial park near the shore of Lake Erie, hard by the Buffalo River, the future of the solar power industry is under construction. SolarCity’s sprawling Buffalo factory, built and paid for by the state of New York, is nearing completion and will soon begin producing some of the most efficient solar panels available commercially. Capable of making 10,000 solar panels a day, or one gigawatt of solar capacity a year, it will be the largest solar manufacturing plant in North America and one of the biggest in the world.
The new factory, says SolarCity chief technology officer Peter Rive, could transform both SolarCity’s business, which has consistently lost money, and the economics of residential solar power.
“Right now we can sell you energy in 14 states at a rate lower than what you’re currently paying the utility,” says Rive. The Buffalo factory, he adds, “sets us up for a future where solar plus batteries is cheaper than fossil fuels.”
The real risk lies in the rapid advance of solar technology: a record-setting panel today might look relatively inefficient three or five years down the road.
Future advances will entail much lighter, flexible panels that offer much higher efficiencies and are even cheaper to install—and thus produce electricity at a much lower cost.