Here Comes the Sun: Ciminelli's SolarCity Project
Then everyone working on the project had to scramble. At that point, EYP had been working on the original design for six months. When SolarCity came in, the firm had to develop new designs for more than 1 million sq ft in less than a week, says Ken Drake, senior project executive at EYP.
In the end, New York agreed to commit $750 million in taxpayer funds for the project: $350 million to build the factory and $400 million in tax credits and funding from New York Power Authority and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority to buy equipment.
SolarCity is committed to investing $5 billion in equipment, which it would be able to keep, and in payroll, both direct and indirect, over 10 years.
The state will own the factory and the equipment it buys. SolarCity will lease the facility and the equipment for $1 a year for 10 years. Soraa is still in the Buffalo Billion program, but is looking for a new site in the region. There is about $100 million left in the Buffalo Billion fund.
SolarCity has become a showcase project in the state’s efforts to transform western New York from a smokestack economy to a greener one, according to Doyle. When the factory is running at capacity, “there will be more people working at SolarCity than there were when Republic Steel was at the height of its operations,” he says.
The unusual partnership structure of the deal also complicated the job for LPCiminelli. The combination of state money and a commercial user resulted in an aggressive schedule with state requirements to be transparent in the use and deployment of public funds.
Under that mandate, LPCiminelli had to act as the developer and had to contract for the design side of the project. The construction firm brought on M+W Group to do process engineering and layout of the equipment. EYP Architecture and Engineering designed the structure, while DPS Engineering performed process engineering and Clough Harbour Associates did the civil engineering work.
In keeping with the green economy ideal, the 100-ft setback along the riverfront with public access will be retained and replanted with native species.
There will be a bioswale area to guard against flooding. Crushed concrete from the excavation of the site will be used in the parking lot. And, of course, there will be solar panels to generate some of the power that the plant will consume.