The level of energy prices will determine how much renewable energy the program will seek. In a low-cost environment, the program could add 1,000 MW. In a high- price environment, it could add as much as 3,000 MW of renewable resources.

Letting In The Sun

At the far end of the state, what is arguably one the most ambitious state-funded projects calls for the repurposing of the site of the former Republic Steel factory into the largest solar panel factory in the Western Hemisphere.

The RiverBend project is a showcase of the state’s strategy for building projects that attract 21st Century businesses and jobs, and it is the centerpiece of Buffalo Billion, an investment plan that Cuomo announced in his 2012 State of the State speech.

Aspects of the Buffalo Billion program are patterned on the success of an earlier program that created the Colleges of Nanoscale Science and Engineering at the State University of New York, which is now part of SUNY Polytechnic Institute. Since its founding about 15 years ago, CNSE has attracted over $20 billion in investment from private companies to New York State, according to David Doyle, a spokesman for SUNY.

Fort Schuyler Management Corp. (FSMC), founded in 2009, is the not-for- profit real estate management and development firm affiliated with SUNY Poly. FSMC acted as the agent for the state in developing the RiverBend project, setting up and conducting the solicitations for the contractor and engaging in negotiations with the tenant, SolarCity of San Mateo, Calif.

In its original iteration, the RiverBend project called for Silevo and Soraa, a solar panel manufacturer and a maker of LED lights, respectively, to occupy a pair of separate 250,000-sq-ft buildings.

When SolarCity acquired Silevo in September 2014, it agreed to take over Silevo’s agreement with New York State, but on a much larger scale, and the company hammered out a deal with ESD and Fort Schuyler.

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–a $150-million tax credit and $250 million in funding from New York Power Authority and New York State Energy Research and Development Authority–to buy equipment.

SolarCity committed to investing $5 billion in equipment, which it would 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 Buffalo region. There is about $100 million left in the Buffalo Billion fund.