Sunday, May 25, 2008

500 New Jobs: Silicon for Solar Electricity

The idle Globe Metallurgical Plant in Niagara Falls will reopen under the parent company, Globe Specialty Metals, Inc., and produce high-purity silicon, a rare commodity essential to make solar-electric panels. Globe will create 500 new jobs, as well as additional jobs needed for construction of a new 100,000-square foot facility. The new facility will produce 4000 tons of solar-grade silicon per year by 2011, and overall the plant will produce 30,000 tons of metallurgical grade silicon annually.

"In about seven months from now, approximately 150 people will be working there, not including contractors who will complete the construction," said Alan Kestenbaum, President and CEO of the New York City based company. In 1.5 to 2 years, an additional 350 people will be added to the staff. The average salary will be approximately $52,000, as reported in Business First of Buffalo.

Kestenbaum said that “This project will be a cornerstone for New York State to become a major center for production and research for renewable energy, and in particular solar energy products", as reported in a Buffalo News story. Globe will invest $60 million to retool the existing metallurgical-grade silicon plant and to construct and outfit a new facility to produce the premium-grade silicon product.

An economic development package supplying low-cost electricity from the Niagara Power Project was key in attracting Globe Specialty Metals to western NY. Empire State Development Corp. (ESDC) and the NY Power Authority partnered to develop the incentive package that provides Globe with 40MW low-cost hydropower over 5 years, and up to $25 Million in Empire Zone Benefits for up to 10 years. In the agreement, 25% of Globe's solar-grade silicon will be used to attract new solar panel manufacturers, positioning NY as a potential solar energy hub. The timing of this news couldn't be better as the National Solar Conference organized by the American Solar Energy Society will be held in Buffalo in 2009!

The ESDC sees the incentive package as necessary to develop the green economy in western NY. Others question the amount of subsidies and the need to waive payment of taxes, as detailed in the Buffalo News report by James Heaney, and covered in his News blog. Still, with so many incentives from the Federal government directed towards the fossil fuel economy that is linked to global warming pollution as well as environmental, health and security concerns, isn't about time that we take a giant step necessary to establish a green economy in western NY based on producing a commodity essential for a clean, renewable energy source? I'm for it. Perhaps some of the issues will be addressed in the June 19th session of Business Gets Green, where a representative from Globe Specialty Metals is slated to speak.

1 comment:

Valya7 said...

I believe that flexible solar cells are state of the art now. There has been talk about these for years and of late a company called Energy Conversion Devices has announced a new plant built in Michigan to produce them.Here is a link:
I hope that the silicon the Global Specialty Metals plant is going to produce will be useful for thin film PV as well as the regular solar panels.
The thought of being freed from dirty electricity is very exciting.