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May 30, 2018 - 1:20pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, business, STAMP, Alabama, GCEDC.

Press release:

The Western New York Science Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (WNY STAMP) today announced the launch of its Facebook (facebook.com/wnystamp) and Twitter (twitter.com/wnystamp) accounts. The social media initiative is being supported by a grant through National Grid.

WNY STAMP is the development of New York State’s second shovel-ready mega site (1,250 acres) designed for nanotech-oriented manufacturing (semiconductor, flat panel display, solar/PV), advanced manufacturing, and large scale bio-manufacturing projects. The site is located in the New York Power Authority’s low cost hydropower zone and is serviced by redundant, highly reliable power.

Located just five miles north of the New York State Thruway (I-90) exit 48A, the site is easily accessible to the region’s 2.3 million residents.

WNY STAMP’s Facebook and Twitter pages will be used to promote the latest updates regarding the site, photos and video content of community leaders discussing the site and surrounding area, what resources the site has to offer to prospective businesses, and more.

“We’re excited to launch our social media and share the story of what will be a major job creator for residents of Western New York,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the Genesee County Economic Development Center. “The sky is the limit for what WNY STAMP can offer to our region and these communication channels will allow us to further connect with prospective businesses and members of our community.

“National Grid has invested over $1 million in the WNY STAMP site to support the attraction of high-technology businesses to our area,” said Ken Kujawa, regional executive for National Grid. “The buzz surrounding the WNY STAMP continues to grow, and telling the story through social media channels furthers the awareness of the incredible potential this site gives to our area.”

The Genesee County Economic Development Center manages WNY STAMP.  For more information on WNY STAMP, head to WNYSTAMP.com

About the Genesee County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC): The GCEDC is the primary economic development agency in Genesee County, NY.

The GCEDC’s mission is to assist local economic development efforts by serving in a conduit financing capacity enabling the issuance of taxable and non-taxable debt to benefit the growth, expansion, ongoing operations and continued viability of for profit business enterprise in Genesee County thereby helping to maintain a sustainable long-term economy.

The Batavia/Genesee County region has been recognized for 15 consecutive years by Site Selection magazine as a top 10 micropolitan in the United States and is rated number three by Business Facilities Magazine as a top metro area for food processing and manufacturing growth.

May 23, 2018 - 8:57am
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, news, GCEDC, notify.

While it still may be a long shot for 1366 Technologies to build its solar wafer manufacturing plant in Genesee County any time soon, there is apparently an ongoing conflict between the company and the Department of Energy. Some industry observers seem to think it could hinder the company's plans to build its first factory in Southeast Asia.

E&E News reported earlier this month that unnamed DOE sources say the agency is pushing patent claims. (See, also, PV Magazine.)

DOE officials believe the United States has a possible claim on 1366 technology tied to grants DOE had given the company over the past eight years. In a review of the 1366 product exclusion petition under the solar tariff, DOE said "it came to light" that the company also had patents not reported as part of its DOE funding process.

DOE and 1366 would not provide documents describing in detail the conditions attached to DOE's grants.

"The department takes seriously its responsibility to protect its intellectual property rights and the parties' obligations under funding agreements," said department press secretary Shaylyn Hynes.

Laureen Sanderson, spokesperson for 1366, wouldn't comment on the dispute except to say, "We are working with the DOE to resolve any misunderstanding."

In 2009, when the DOE was part of the Obama Administration, the department made a $150 million loan guarantee to 1366. That was apparently contingent on the company securing a U.S. site for manufacturing and raising $100 million in private financing. The company selected a site in Alabama's Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park -- AKA the STAMP project -- (though a DOE spokesperson later denied 1366 had made such a selection) but fell about $10 million short as of the fall of 2017 in its private investment goal.

To what degree that was the real sticking point in negotiations is hard to say based on available information, but at the beginning of the year 1366 announced it was withdrawing its application for the loan guarantee and planning a factory in Southeast Asia.

The ongoing conflict with the DOE came to light when 1366 applied for an exemption for its component in a planned tariff on solar panels manufactured in China.

A DOE spokesperson contacted by The Batavian last week did not respond to a request for comment.

If 1366 were to shift focus again and seek to return to STAMP the company would, of course, be welcome, said Steve Hyde, CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center. He said GCEDC has not been contacted by the company, however. If it did come to that, just because of the passage of time, there would need to be new negotiations.

"But I’m sure that things could be put in place that are very similar," Hyde said.

It's unclear, and 1366 isn't saying, how far along the company is with its Southeast Asia plant.

April 25, 2018 - 3:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, news, STAMP, GCEDC, notify.

After an apparent inability to reach an agreement with 1366 Technologies that would have paved a path for the company build its solar wafer plant in the STAMP project in Alabama, an attorney for the Department of Energy is threatening legal action against the startup for planning its factory in Southeast Asia.

John T. Lucus, acting general counsel for the DOE, submitted a letter to trade representatives last week in opposition to a request by 1366 for an exemption from a proposed tariff on solar panels manufactured overseas.

Citing a claim by 1366 in its application for the exemption that it is building a factory in Southeast Asia, Lucus wrote, "1366, however, made U.S. manufacturing commitments to DOE as part of millions of dollars in funding agreements with 1366. Constructing and operating the Southeast Asia facility is likely contrary to 1366's U.S. manufacturing commitments to DOE. DOE takes this matter very seriously and is currently looking into 1366's compliance with its DOE funding agreements."

A spokeswoman for 1366 declined to comment.

"We are not providing comment on the letter at this time as we’re working to consult with the DOE to gain additional clarity," said Laureen Sanderson.

The letter from Lucas makes it sound like the DOE either released funding or followed through on commitments to help fund the $700 million plant 1366 had hoped to build in Genesee County.

In fact, 1366 withdrew its application for funding late last year and announced its plans to build a plant overseas instead of in the U.S. after the DOE failed to finalize a 2011 agreement for a $150 million loan guarantee.

After 1366 selected Genesee County for its facility, the company sought to renegotiate part of the agreement. The negotiations were put on hold following Donald Trump's election and did not resume until well after Secretary Rick Perry was confirmed. According to sources, the DOE was unwilling to make any changes to the agreement, specifically as it related to a requirement that 1366 raise $100 million in private investment. At that point, the company had raised $80 million.

The other part of the agreement used by the DOE to justify withholding the loan guarantee was that the company had not selected a location in the United States for its manufacturing facility even though 1366 had signed documents with both the Genesee County Economic Development Center and Empire State Development naming STAMP as its future manufacturing home.

The 1366 manufacturing process is patented and touted as potentially disruptive to the energy industry because it eliminates waste, lowers costs, and boosts power efficiency. It was developed at MIT.

The factory in Alabama was expected to employ as many as 1,000 people at full capacity making just solar wafers, not solar panels, and the company said all of the initial customers would be overseas and not in the United States.

The letter from Sanderson to the U.S. Trade Representative regarding the Trump administration's proposed tariff on solar panels says the company is seeking an exclusion on the portion of any panels imported into the U.S. using direct-to-wafer technology. The wafer comprises 70 percent of a panel's expense, Sanderson said.

The exclusion application also states that 1366 still plans to build a factory in the United States at some point that will employ 700 to 1,000 people.

The company said the exemption would give the U.S. solar industry "breathing room" in order to compete in the global market.

In the request summary, 1366 states:

The greatest barriers facing U.S. companies today come from a trade imbalance that places U.S.-based firms at an obvious disadvantage, scaring off private investors, stifling on-going U.S.-based manufacturing innovation and forcing U.S. companies to negotiate product sales and technology licensing agreements with foreign, state-funded companies from a position of weakness. The U.S. now has a very real opportunity to correct this imbalance and right the course for U.S. manufacturers and innovators so that they, in turn, can focus on job creation.

SolarWorld, based in Bonn, Germany, and one of two companies (along with Suniva, which has since gone bankrupt) that lobbied for U.S. tariffs of 30 percent on solar panels, opposes the 1366 exemption. While acknowledging the innovative manufacturing process employed by 1366, SolarWorld's Timothy C. Brightbill says the final product is indistinguishable from existing wafers.

SolarWorld itself has received $121 million in state and federal grants and tax breaks and another $61 million in loan guarantees. SolarWorld is also struggling and is currently seeking bankruptcy protection in Germany.

SolarWorld is also opposing an application by Panasonic/Telsa for an exemption for a part used in solar panels manufactured in Buffalo.

March 11, 2018 - 11:49pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, GCEDC.

We weren't able to cover Friday's annual meeting for Genesee County Economic Development Center, but we did cover CEO Steve Hyde's department review for the Legislature, which would cover much of the same annual review as Friday's meeting.

GCEDC released this promotional video on Friday for the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park in Alabama.

March 2, 2018 - 7:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, Alabama, news, notify.

There's more to 1366 Technologies slipping away from the STAMP project than just losing the first company to commit to the technology park in Alabama -- it's also a loss of the kind of innovative company that would be good for the region, said Genesee County Economic Development Center CEO Steve Hyde during a meeting today with local reporters.

"These guys really do have a very innovative product," Hyde said. "They're changing an industry that's a high-growth industry. Usually, when you have credible quality IP (intellectual property) married to an industry of high growth, the sky's the limit. That was something that I really loved because we would be really introducing that kind of innovation here in our community, which has always been part of what I've been trying to cultivate in our community."

As reported earlier, 1366, which makes silicon wafers for solar power, announced today that they would not build their first full-scale production facility in Genesee County after the company and the Department of Energy were unable to agree on terms for a loan guarantee.

Already with more than $80 million in the bank from private investors and tax abatements guaranteed by GCEDC and Empire State Development, 1366 was trying to finalize a $150 million loan guarantee to help get its plant, with 1,000 local jobs, up and running. The original DOE guarantee was granted in 2011 but 1366 still needed to raise $100 million in private equity both to unlock the funds and to finance the first phase of the plant construction. (The public support for the project totaled $56.3 million in tax abatements and state grants over 10 years. Since 1366 never finalized financing and closed on the transaction with GCEDC, the company received no taxpayer money.)

Laureen Sanderson, a spokesperson for 1366, said the DOE agreed last year to reopen discussions on the loan guarantee but when it came time to renegotiate the agreement, it was clear there would be no guarantee the funds would be available at the end of what she said would be an expensive and lengthy negotiation process.

Earlier today, Rep. Chris Collins issued a statement blaming the breakdown in the funding process on 1366, saying it was evidence that the company was never serious about building its plant in the United States.

"Despite being approved over six-and-a-half- years ago and my office facilitating multiple contacts between 1366 and the Department of Energy, the company failed to complete the necessary requirements of their contract and has had to terminate its federal loan offer," Collins said in a statement.

According to 1366, it was their decision to withdraw its application, not the DOE terminating the agreement.

A statement from the Department of Energy supports that position.

1366 Technologies has withdrawn from its Loan Guarantee Agreement that was signed with the Department of Energy (DOE) in September 2011. 1366 Technologies has shown the potential to introduce an innovative American manufacturing technology, which is why the Loan Programs Office issued the loan guarantee to support commercialization efforts, following up on previous DOE support for the company’s research and development.

According to sources in support of the congressman's statement, the DOE twice "renegotiated" its agreement with 1366. A source at DOE would only say that the DOE extended the date of its loan guarantee in response to discussions with 1366.

Sanderson chafed at the accusation by Collins that the company wasn't serious about building its first facility in New York.

She said the company completed environmental assessments, preliminary designs, permits, and worked diligently to line up economic support and financing for a local plant. That was a lot of time and expense to invest in the project, she said.

"The fact that our seriousness is being questioned is troubling," Sanderson said. "I don't know how many other ways to make it clear that our commitment was there."

In a story earlier today, The Batavian shared a report about a budget proposal from the Trump Administration that would slash funding for the very program 1366 would need for its loan guarantee.

Collins responded to that report with the following statement:

Anyone that will blame President Trump and his budget for 1366 pulling out of their contract with DOE is misinformed and completely unaware of how these types of arrangements actually work. To start, the funding for this project was approved six and a half years ago, so the President’s proposed FY19 budget would have no impact, not to mention that Congress, not the President, authorizes and funds these types of programs. After renegotiations that consumed DOE resources, 1366 was still unable meet the requirements agreed upon in their contract. To me, it seems like 1366 was spending the last six and a half years playing the field to see if they could get a better deal elsewhere.

Asked today if he was ever worried whether 1366 was seriously committed to STAMP, Hyde said there was never a hint that 1366 wasn't fully invested in opening its first plant in New York. He also knew, however, there was no guarantee until 1366 finalized its financing.

"I also realized and appreciated that there was still a startup company," Hyde said. "The challenge that a startup company has is the capitalization of their project. It is a major challenge that well-established companies with good balance sheets don't have to be concerned about. So, I'm a realist and I knew that that was always a risk and that's really what ended up happening here. The markets moved and the project changed."

The Batavian first spoke with Hyde about delays that could endanger the project in the fall of 2015, shortly after an expected groundbreaking at STAMP didn't take place.

Hyde said the delays had nothing to do with support from Empire State Development or the governor's office.

"The governor has been nothing but incredibly supportive," Hyde said. "I mean he I think he really believes that we can we can re-engineer the economy of upstate with high tech."

The big issue, from Hyde's perspective, is that the solar industry is growing and changing fast. That turbulence makes it hard for any startup to attract private investment.

It might seem there's a contradiction at play here.  In the fall of 2015, groundbreaking on STAMP was delayed. Now, construction is underway, but not much regarding financing for 1366 changed between now and then.

"I have to beg to differ because there were things going on on the market side of the deal," Hyde said. "There were changing timelines for the project, the 1366 project, and what that does is it makes you decide to walk or jog while you do certain things relative to infrastructure versus run to support the project because then you optimize your cost profile as you do it."

Those changing market conditions played a role both in the fact 1366 didn't meet the requirement of the original DOE agreement to raise $100 million in equity and its requests for extensions of the agreement.

In November, besides the $100 million in private equity, the only other requirement a DOE source said 1366 was failing to meet was its obligation to select a site in the United States for its production facility.

The truth, was, however, that 1366 already had selected a location: STAMP in Alabama, in Genesee County, in New York, in the United States.

Hyde said the DOE's claim didn't make much sense.

"There was a signed state incentive proposal that talks specifically about where they were locating," Hyde said. "Then there was a signed local financial assistance application. This wasn't just a handshake deal. Governor Cuomo won't come and do a big announcement event like that if there isn't some serious negotiations and a documented commitment. Those documents have the signature of the CEO of 1366."

Sen. Charles Schumer has been supportive of both STAMP and 1366. The Batavian reached out to his office today to see if his staff might be able to offer insight into what went wrong with the project.

Spokesman Jason Kaplan issued the following statement:

It’s disappointing to learn that 1366 is withdrawing from pursuing this loan. Senator Schumer personally called DOE Secretary Rick Perry on Oct. 5, 2017 in support of 1366 and to request Secretary Perry meet with 1366 Technologies CEO to work with 1366 on a path forward. As a result of Senator Schumer’s intervention, Secretary Perry personally met with 1366 Technologies the following week on Oct. 11th. 1366 characterized the meeting as constructive and pivotal in finally allowing 1366 to open dialog with DOE and to map out a series of benchmarks the parties would work toward to move forward. We were hopeful they would move forward.

Jason Conwall, on behalf of Empire State Development, issued the following statement:

New York's commitment to 1366 Technologies was contingent upon their securing additional financing and since they have withdrawn from their DOE loan agreement, we won’t be able to move forward with the project at this time.

Today, Hyde said the loss of 1366 -- at least temporarily -- is not a setback for the project. In fact, just the fact that 1366 came along has helped move STAMP into a position to help it better appeal to site selectors for large high-tech companies looking for manufacturing locations.

"They did catalyze our ability to start the infrastructure development efforts at the site, which now makes the site far more competitive and attractive for another project to the scale of that one," Hyde said. "Now there's roadways in there. There's water lines and fire hydrants OK. New York State is committed to this. Howard Zemsky said we're going to keep going."

The withdrawal of 1366 also opens up a very attractive 100-acre parcel in the park.

"It's also protected by beautiful woods and wetlands," Hyde said. "You have a road in, it's blocked by woods, so when you pull in and then it's like, 'whoa.' It's a hundred acres that is just flat. That is something that many high tech companies find very attractive. There is a little bit of privacy, an environment where you can build a creative-class campus with walking trails, picnic areas, nature, respectful of the world conditions that we have. You got access to hydropower, sustainability. All of those things play very well into what high tech companies look for today."

There are at least four companies actively engaged in considering STAMP. There are have been two companies inquire about it that could take the entire park in one swoop.  There's a company that could bring in 3,500 jobs within three years.

In planning for 1366, STAMP is positioned well to attract what Hyde called, metaphorically, the small house. The house that needs a smaller foundation.  Those are not the companies currently most interested in STAMP.

"We now have the infrastructure to support a project of that (1366 Technologies) size and scale," Hyde said. "What we're seeing now, right now, today, with the four or so projects that are in our pipeline is projects that are much bigger than that. They need infrastructure much bigger than that. In other words, we need the funding to fund the blueprint for the big house. So the big water, the big sewer, the big electric, and that is the ongoing conversation that we're having with the state right now. This is not the time that we can pick up our toys and go home. This is time to double down and go harder because we're seeing deals that validated this site, and 1366 certainly validated it."

Hyde said ongoing negotiations with site selectors also validates the value of STAMP.

"We've got a project right now that has kicked the tires of this site and had five site visits," Hyde said. "They've had their engineering teams, their business teams, their marketing teams, their workforce teams in our place for like 14 days due diligence. Those companies wouldn't be spending that kind of time if this wasn't real.

Nothing is written in stone, though. STAMP is just one location among many these big companies can choose. Now that the infrastructure is in, it will be easier for GCEDC and ESD to move quickly but markets move fast -- as 1366 seems to prove -- so there's a lot that can go wrong on the road to new high-tech jobs. 

"If this happened in Silicon Valley, it might not even hit your radar screen to make the news because high-tech projects come and go and morph and change," Hyde said. "In our world, it is a little different.

"This is new for us, so we need to continue to remember that we've got to put our battle gear on every day and continue swinging at this stuff because we have higher ed and the educational system assets. We have great infrastructure. You need to spend some more money to put that stuff together like we're doing with STAMP. But, you know what? We have real potential."

March 2, 2018 - 12:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, GCEDC, notify, news.

Solar wafer manufacturer 1366 Technologies has decided to build it's first full-scale factory in a foreign country rather than in Genesee County.

The innovative Masschuchett's-based company made its decision based on delays and uncertainty around a loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.  

"We have always wanted to have and intended to have factories around the world that were close to our distribution centers," said Laureen Sanderson, spokesperson for 1366. "We have decided to build the first one aboard. That doesn't mean the second can't be here in the U.S. and as those pieces come into place, the GCEDC will be the first call we make."

In a statement, GCEDC CEO Steve Hyde said that while this is disappointing news, it's important to note that 1366 had not yet received any taxpayer dollars for is proposed facility and that work continues to prepare the STAMP site for eventual tenants.

“We remain extremely excited and committed to STAMP because there is a long pipeline of leads and great interest in the site by various advanced manufacturing businesses," Hyde said.

While 1366 had raised nearly $100 million in private equity, and has continued to raise investment funds, Sanderson said, and had committed to the STAMP site, after the change of administrations in January 2017, the Department of Energy never released funds for a loan guarantee promised during the prior administration. The DOE's position was that 1366 had not met its obligation to select a site and raise $100 million equity.

Because of the rapidly changing business climate in solar power, 1366 then wanted to renegotiate the loan agreement but no agreement was reached.

In its own budget proposal, the DOE slashed $330 million funding for the program, called Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy, even though it is supported GOP-controlled Senate in its budget.

Nobody at 1366, however, is blaming the DOE for the decision to locate its first factory overseas. The company is simply withdrawing its request for a loan guarantee, Sanderson said.

"As we evaluated the loan guarantee, the additional time and expense beyond what we have already invested, for the negotiation process without any indication of the outcome of the loan guarantee after the negotiations were completed made it difficult to move forward," Sanderson said.

The Trump administration said it was protecting U.S. manufacturing jobs in the solar industry when it announced last month a tariff on solar panels. That tariff, however, has little impact on 1366 since it doesn't make panels, just the wafers that go into panels, and its primary market for wafers is outside the United States. If anything, it could have faced retaliatory tariffs from China on any wafers it shipped to that country.

Sanderson said the company will not yet to disclose the location of its proposed first factory.

The company is eager to get its advanced and innovated solar wafer manufacturing process into full production. The solar energy market is moving fast and 1366 wants to participate in that growth.

"It was difficult to make this decision and put the U.S. factory on the back burner but we were eager to get into production," Sanderson said. "The wafer is now the focus of the industry. It is the one thing that hasn't yet had the cost stripped from it."

For more than four decades, solar wafers have been made by grinding and polishing silicon wafers. The proprietary 1366 process involves pouring molten silicon into glass-like sheets, which allows for thinner, more efficient solar wafers, that are less expensive to make and produce no significant waste.

The MIT-incubated company selected 1366 for its first factory, in part, because it could be powered by renewable energy, the power generated by Niagara Falls.

Sanderson said now that its wafer is in production, the 1366 wafer is being validated in the market.

"In customer trials, on actual production lines, we have seen fantastic results with an average of 20.3 percent efficiency on production lines," Sanderson said.

Throughout a conversation with The Batavian this afternoon, Sanderson said repeatedly that 1366 still intended to build a factory in the United States and when that day comes, GCEDC will receive the first call. She praised the efforts of the GCEDC staff as well as Empire State Development and said this decision was in no way a result of anything GCEDC or ESD failed to do.

"We tried everything we could," Sanderson said. "Everyone tried and did everything they could to make a U.S. factory a reality."

She added, "There’s no doubt in our mind that STAMP is a world-class site. The talent in the region is exceptional and we know that everyone is working really hard to ensure that vision is realized in the community."

The company would have employed 1,000 local workers at full production.

Hyde said commitment to STAMP locally and throughout the state is as strong as ever.

“We also have a number of partners in the public and private sector who I know remain committed to STAMP," Hyde said. "This collaboration is critically important in our efforts, especially as we combine the resources of our economic development partners to market the significant attributes of the Buffalo and Rochester metropolitan areas as one region.

“So, for the GCEDC it is business as usual in our ongoing efforts to get STAMP shovel ready and continuing to market the site to these businesses.”

Rep. Chris Collins issued a statement blaming 1366 for the deicsion without mentioning the DOE's attempt to defund the energy innovation program:

“While they would have been an economic asset to the community, one cannot help but wonder if 1366 Technologies was ever serious about opening a plant at the STAMP site in Alabama. Despite being approved over six and a half years ago and my office facilitating multiple contacts between 1366 and the Department of Energy, the company failed to complete the necessary requirements of their contract and has had to terminate its federal loan offer.

“Despite this result, I remain eager to work with state and local partners to assist in the success of the STAMP project. Genesee County remains an attractive place to locate a high-tech manufacturing business and I am confident the leadership in this community will make this project a success.”

After reading the statement from Collins, Sanderson had this to say: "It's important to understand we were very committed to New York. There was a lot of time and resources around making that U.S. factory a reality. We understand the impact this has on the community. That is not lost on us. That doesn't mean New York can't be a future location and it remains in our plans."

We have requests for comment out to the Department of Energy and Sen. Charles Schumer's office. We will update this story as appropriate.

November 6, 2017 - 5:53pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, news, notify, STAMP, business.

A spokesperson for the Department of Energy contacted The Batavian today to explain that the reason 1366 Technologies hasn't received its loan guarantee yet is that the company has yet to meet all the criteria of the original 2011 loan guarantee agreement.

On one hand, that appears to be true. The DOE says 1366 needs to secure $100 million in private investment. That hasn't happened yet. The second qualification, that 1366 has yet to select a site for its factory, is a matter of how the DOE interprets 1366's agreement with New York to build at the STAMP site in Alabama.

Asked about the seeming incongruity of 1366 announcing a site selection in 2015 and the DOE now claiming no site has been selected, the spokesperson said, "In a meeting with DOE officials last month, 1366 Technologies stated that it was considering three possible locations for their facility, of which one location is in New York."

Laureen Sanderson, speaking for 1366 Technologies, said 1366 is committed to building in Genesee County but the company also let the DOE know that if the loan guarantee wasn't approved, the company would have to initiate its contingency plans, which likely means building a plant in another country.

"Of course, we discussed contingency plans with DOE," Sanderson said. "That's par for the course when talking with a partner, but our focus remains on New York."

She added, "What’s important to recognize is that our commitment to New York remains. That's the site we selected in 2015. State and local officials have been wonderful. We’re doing everything we can to make that site a reality."

What both sides can agree on is that negotiations on the loan guarantee agreement are ongoing and active. Sanderson characterized the discussions as positive and productive.

"We have a shared goal with the Department of Energy to create U.S. manufacturing jobs," Sanderson said. "That's what we both want to do and that’s what we hope we can achieve together with the Department of Energy."

The spokeswoman confirmed there was a loan guarantee finalized in 2011 but said it was contingent on 1366 securing $100 million in equity financing and finalizing a location for its manufacturing plant.

Sanderson confirmed 1366 has so far raised only $89 million but emphasized again the company is committed to New York and creating U.S. manufacturing jobs.

The negotiations with the DOE are necessary, in part, because the solar industry has continued to evolve since 2011.

"A lot has changed in the solar industry but what hasn’t changed is the strength of the technology," Sanderson said.

The lag time between announcing the company's plans to build at the STAMP site and now, Sanderson said, has enabled the company to improve the energy efficiency of its solar wafers, working with partner Hanwha.

"The technology has only gotten better," Sanderson said. "Our technology not only improves the manufacturing process and reduces costs but every wafer we produce is a better product."

The proprietary technique development by 1366 at MIT's labs in the Boston area uses molten silicon to make a wafer, rather than the cutting and grinding process the solar industry has used for 40 years. This reduces waste and energy used to make wafers.

Right now, 1366 only has a demonstration production facility in Medford, but the company, working with Hanwha, has continued to improve efficiency by .08 percent annually, making 1366's wafers the most efficient in the industry, Sanderson said.

When the company can go into full production, it can continue to make efficiency gains as well as work with solar panel companies to find other uses for this new technology. The company will be able to make thinner wafers that are strong and more flexible. Current wafers are too brittle for thin, flexible uses.

"Because we are able to work at the melt level, we are able to introduce new features the industry has long wanted but can't achieve," Sanderson said. "There is only more innovation and discoveries to be had through the manufacturing process."

When 1366 announced its intention to build in Alabama, CEO Frank van Mierlo cited lower cost, clean hydropower from Niagara Falls as an attraction to the location. Sanderson added another reason 1366 wants to stay in the United States, if at all possible -- a superior silicon supply chain.

"Our technology is the first major change in the solar industry in more than 40 years," Sanderson said. "We solved a manufacturing challenge that the industry has wanted to solve for 40 years. There is a lot of technological strength in the U.S. supply chain and with that strength, the U.S. has a real chance to establish manufacturing leadership."

November 2, 2017 - 7:19pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, Alabama, news, notify.

There continues to be one significant roadblock for 1366 Technologies to get around before breaking ground a new $700 million solar wafer manufacturing facility in Alabama -- getting the Department of Energy's final approval on a previously promised $150 million loan guarantee.

If that loan guarantee isn't finalized, 1366 Technologies, instead of creating 1,000 good-paying jobs in Genesee County, could turn to an overseas location for its manufacturing facility.

"We remain focused on the U.S. and U.S. job creation," said Laureen Sanderson, spokeswoman for 1366. "We continue to work closely with the State and GCEDC, who remain committed to the project, and we’re in active discussions with the Department of Energy. Those discussions have been positive, but we’ve yet to receive a final indication on the status of the loan."

The Boston Business Journal reported today that 1366 just secured another $9 million in funding from investors, bringing the total raised to $89 million. The article also raised the specter of 1366 locating its facility in another country.

The company identified a site in New York for that manufacturing facility, but is still working to officially secure the funding from the DOE. In the meantime, a company spokesperson said, 1366 is exploring the possibility of building its first factory abroad due to the commercial interest its technology has received internationally.

"We are exploring possibilities to build factories internationally, but that has always been part of our plan," Sanderson said, adding, "It is understood that building in the U.S. is only possible if the loan is accessible. If it’s not there, we need to pursue the other options available to us."

The factory would be about 130,000 square feet and located in the advanced manufacturing park under construction in Alabama known as STAMP. It's been a decade-long process by Steve Hyde and the GCEDC to bring STAMP to fruition and 1366 Technologies is the first, and so far, only significant tenant announced for the park.

The company selected STAMP in part because of its location to low-cost, clean energy, specifically, hydropower from Niagara Falls. 

The proprietary method 1366 Technologies uses to manufacture solar wafers was developed at MIT and leads to solar wafers that are more efficient, produced at lower costs and with less waste than the way solar wafers are manufactured currently. The company's immediate goal is to manufacture wafers domestically for export to large solar installations overseas, such as the one completed earlier this year in Japan

Hyde said GCEDC remains committed to bringing 1366 to Genesee County.

He issued this statement:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC), along with our U.S. Senate and Congressional delegates, continue to work with 1366 Technologies to help secure the US Department of Energy Loan Guarantee that will enable the company to build their first Direct Wafer manufacturing facility at the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (WNY STAMP).

We believe that the Company has clarified their intentions that their strategy is a U.S. manufacturing first strategy and as such fully aligns with their previous commitments to establish their U.S. manufacturing hub at our 1,250-acre STAMP High Tech Mega-Campus here in Genesee County.

Rep. Chris Collins, through a statement issued by staff, said he is doing what he can to help secure the loan guarantee for 1366.

Congressman Collins has been actively working with partners at the Genesee County Economic Development Center to assist in opening a dialogue with 1366 Technologies and the U.S. Department of Energy. The Congressman is pleased that Secretary Rick Perry recently met with 1366 Technologies executives to discuss this project. These conversations are necessary to make sure that any significant taxpayer investment in the form of a government backed loan is made prudently.
We are hopeful that an understanding will be reached that protects taxpayers while creating economic opportunity in Genesee County. The Congressman will continue in his role in assisting this conversation and always remains committed to supporting efforts to create jobs in Genesee County.

The loan guarantee was promised to 1366 in 2011 but during the transition to the Trump Administration, there were delays related to the transition.

Sanderson said, "There was a transition with the change in administration and that was more challenging than we had expected. However, we’re now having the right discussions and those remain active."

The company is entering a highly competitive solar market that is booming (Solar Employs More People In U.S. Electricity Generation Than Oil, Coal And Gas Combined). Sanderson acknowledged the company, which currently has a small facility in Boston that employs 60 people, is keen to move forward with full production.

"We’re eager to bring the technology to mass production because we know what it can do for the industry and for consumers’ ability to access inexpensive solar power," Sanderson said. "But we’ve certainly taken advantage of the time in the run-up to scale to make additional technical gains. We’ve now surpassed the efficiency of the incumbent technology and have a cost advantage that no sawn wafer can beat. We’ll continue to make gains as the first step – but certainly not the last – in our scaling effort crystallizes."

UPDATE Friday, 10 a.m.: Statement from the office of Sen. Charles Schumer:

“Last month Senator Schumer spoke directly to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Rick Perry and urged him to reach out to the 1366 Technologies CEO and meet with 1366. Almost immediately after the conversation, Secretary Perry reached out to the CEO and met that following week. Our office remains in very close contact with 1366 Technologies and the Department of Energy,” said Jason Kaplan, spokesman for Senator Schumer.

October 12, 2017 - 4:13pm
posted by Billie Owens in news, business, Alabama, STAMP.

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer today announced, after his push, that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has approved the Empire Pipeline Inc.’s revised and extended PILOT agreement with Genesee County in order to keep an important water infrastructure project on track.

Schumer said that with the agreement now approved and renewed, funds can be cleared for new water infrastructure at Genesee County’s Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP), bringing good-paying jobs to the Western New York region and investing in New York State’s critical infrastructure.

“This is great news for Genesee County, with the PILOT agreement renewed and approved upgrades to water infrastructure at STAMP can begin and stay on schedule and put new jobs in the pipeline,” Senator Schumer said.

I am pleased FERC heeded my calls to act quickly and approve this petition to ensure that the timely construction of new water infrastructure is not held up by bureaucratic red-tape.This newly approved agreement is a win-win for job creation and the hard-working people of Genesee County, allowing the Genesee County Economic Development Center to proceed with vital upgrades to the STAMP business park.”

Schumer explained that the original PILOT agreement between Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and Empire Pipeline was approved by FERC and implemented in 2007 as part of Empire Pipeline’s investment to construct a new gas compression station in the Town of Oakfield in Genesee County. The agreement was up for renewal and Schumer called for FERC to review and approve the application, the agreement will hold through 2032.

This request does not include any new construction, but is solely an amendment and extension of the original PILOT agreement. Funding provided to Genesee County by Empire Pipeline under this PILOT agreement is required by Genesee County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) to finance Phase 2 construction of new water lines to serve STAMP and with FERCs final sign off construction will no longer be delayed.

September 26, 2017 - 3:11pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, news, Alabama, STAMP, GCEDC.

Press release:

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer on Monday urged the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) to approve the Empire Pipeline Inc.’s revised and extended PILOT (Payment In Lieu Of Taxes) agreement with Genesee County in order to keep an important water infrastructure project on track.

Schumer said that with the agreement now up for renewal, it is essential that FERC approve the extended agreement to finance new water infrastructure at Genesee County’s Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Business Park (STAMP), bringing good paying jobs to the Rochester Finger Lakes region and investing in New York State’s critical infrastructure.

“Genesee County’s PILOT agreement is vital to keep water infrastructure construction at STAMP on schedule and put new jobs in the pipeline,” Senator Schumer said. “FERC must act quickly and approve this petition to ensure that the timely construction of new water infrastructure is not held up by bureaucratic red tape.

"This agreement is a win-win for job creation and the hard working people of Genesee County, allowing the Genesee County Economic Development Center to proceed with vital upgrades to the STAMP business park.”

Schumer explained that the original PILOT agreement between Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and Empire Pipeline was approved by FERC and implemented in 2007 as part of Empire Pipeline’s investment to construct a new gas compression station in the Town of Oakfield in Genesee County. This agreement is now up for renewal through 2032.

This request does not include any new construction, but is solely an amendment and extension of the original PILOT agreement.

This renewal agreement was approved by Genesee County and Empire Pipeline in 2016 and is currently awaiting final approval by FERC. Funding provided to Genesee County by Empire Pipeline under this PILOT agreement is required by Genesee County Economic Development Corporation (GCEDC) to finance Phase 2 construction of new water lines to serve STAMP and timely action by FERC is needed to ensure the construction timeline is not delayed.

A copy of Schumer’s letter appears below:

Dear FERC Chairman Chatterjee:

I write to request that you take swift action on the Petition (Docket CP06-5, Sub Docket 013) filed by Empire Pipeline Inc. to approve its revised and extended PILOT (Payment in lieu of taxes) agreement with Genesee County, NY, which is necessary to finance new job-creating water infrastructure at Genesee County’s STAMP (Science Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Business Park) business park. 

The original PILOT agreement between Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) and Empire Pipeline was approved by FERC and implemented in 2007 as part of Empire Pipeline’s investment to construct a new gas compression station in the Town of Oakfield in Genesee County. This agreement is now up for renewal through 2032. This request does not include any new construction, but is solely an amendment and extension of the original PILOT agreement. This renewal agreement was approved by Genesee County and Empire Pipeline in 2016 and is currently awaiting final approval by FERC. 

Timely approval of this agreement is necessary to ensure that the construction of new water infrastructure, which is crucial to economic development in the region, can proceed on schedule. The $4 million in proceeds paid by Empire Pipeline to Genesee County under this renewal agreement are set to be used to finance new job-creating water line investment in Genesee County. Specifically this funding is required to complete the financing of the Phase 2 construction of new water lines to serve the forthcoming STAMP business park, a 1,250-acre site that Genesee County is transforming into a shovel-ready business park to attract new manufacturing business and jobs. As the Phase 1 water construction is now underway, I request FERC expeditiously schedule this Petition for action in order to enable the Genesee County Economic Development Center to proceed on its Phase 2 schedule without delay. 

Thank you for your attention to this request. 

Sincerely, 

Charles E. Schumer

August 31, 2017 - 11:55am
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, GCEDC, Alabama, business, batavia.

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More than a decade of planning, preparation, promotion, lobbying, public hearings, and approvals have finally culminated in the first shovel in the ground for the Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) in the northwest corner of Genesee County.

Contractors are making room for roads along with water, sewer, and electrical transmission lines, clearing brush and trees and grading the ground to specifications.

"We're pretty excited to be moving forward on infrastructure and breaking ground and turning it into a modern business park," said Mark Masse, VP of operations for Genesee County Economic Development Corporation.

The infrastructure project, which includes a new water main being installed down Judge Road in Oakfield to Route 77 and then out to STAMP, is covered by a $33 million budget appropriations in New York's 2014 state budget. 

The new sewer system is still in the design and approval process and electrical won't be completed until the first tenant -- probably 1366 Technologies -- designs its project and specifies its electrical needs, but all of that infrastructure will be covered by the 2014 budget appropriations.

The new Oakfield-Alabama water line will carry 200,000 gallons of water a day to the Town of Alabama and STAMP. A second water line will also be installed from Pembroke to STAMP, which will provide 600,000 to 800,000 gallons per day of capacity, giving STAMP access to nearly one million gallons of water a day.

As for 1366, the company continues to be engaged with GCEDC in preparations for construction of its solar wafer manufacturing plant, but is still awaiting final approval of a loan guarantee by the Department of Energy. The Trump Administration has yet to fill vacancies on the DoE's board, which must authorize final approval.

Rachael J. Tabelski, GCEDC's director of marketing and communications, said both Rep. Chris Collins and the office of Sen. Charles Schumer have been engaged in trying to help move the process along.

Tabelski also said tech companies looking for locations such at STAMP have shown a good deal of interest in the project. GCEDC has received 14 requests for information and hosted 10 site visits. The projects combined represent a total of $11.5 billion in investments.

"The sales funnel is full," Tabelski said. "There's a lot of interest in STAMP, so it's a matter of when not if."

When that when arrives, Genesee County and the entire region will be expected to provide the employees for these new companies, so GCEDC is also aggressively pursuing workforce development projects with area schools, colleges and universities, Tabelski said.

"There is going to be a need in mechatronics, nano technology, and STEM at all levels of these companies," Tabelski said. "We will have a need for all of these kinds of workers."

(STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering (and) Math.)

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August 23, 2017 - 12:04pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, business.

Press Release:

Silicon wafer manufacturer 1366 Technologies today announced a new performance record for 1366’s Direct Wafer® technology with the achievement of 20.3% cell efficiency, independently confirmed by Fraunhofer ISE CalLab. The company achieved this repeated efficiency record in a joint effort together with its development partner Hanwha Q CELLS. 1366’s Direct Wafer products in combination with Hanwha Q CELLS’ Q.ANTUM cell technology also achieved an average efficiency of 20.1% on the pilot line with standard processes used in mass production. The collaboration between the two companies has boosted the cell efficiency of the Direct Wafer technology by an average of 0.8% per year.​

“Our strategic partnership with Hanwha Q CELLS is paving the way for a solar future where high-efficiency cells are realized at a substantially lower cost,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “Working at the melt level, rather than an ingot, means you can play with the make-up of the wafer as it is being formed. The wafer is no longer a commodity but a source for efficiency gains and differentiation. With the combined benefits of our Direct Wafer products and Hanwha’s Q.ANTUM cell technologies, we are rapidly closing in on 21% efficiency and demonstrating performance previously only achievable with monocrystalline wafers.”

“Together, Hanwha Q CELLS and 1366 have made meaningful progress in increasing the efficiency of solar cells based on Direct Wafers. The latest performance record again shows the potential that lies in combining 1366’s innovative Direct Wafer® technology with our established Q.ANTUM cell technology,” said Daniel Jeong, Global CTO and Executive Vice President at Hanwha Q CELLS.

“The simple fact is sawing ingots – whether cast multi or pulled mono – is wasteful and energy intensive. It’s an old process for a modern industry. While streamlining the supply chain has lowered costs, the ability to provide further value through innovation is severely constrained,” continued van Mierlo. “Direct Wafer products deliver the lowest LCOE for a cost-driven industry and we do it without sacrificing performance, using just 1/3 the energy.”

The wafers were produced with 1366’s current production furnaces in Bedford, MA and the cell fabrication was completed using production process equipment at Hanwha Q CELLS’ Center for Technology, Innovation, and Quality in Thalheim, Germany.

June 29, 2017 - 4:36pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, business, news.

A company that could revolutionize the solar industry, with manufacturing based in Genesee County, is making progress on bringing its solar wafer technology to market at scale.

This week, 1366 Technologies announced that a Japanese energy company has opened a new power station using wafers manufactured with its proprietary high-performance wafers.

Though work is proceeding to prepare the STAMP industrial park in Alabama for its first tenant, there is no word yet on when there will be a groundbreaking for STAMP or for the 1366 plant, which could eventually employ as many as 1,000 people. The plant is expected to manufacture solar wafers primarily for export to industrial solar installations, such as the new facility in Japan.

Press release:

Silicon wafer manufacturer 1366 Technologies today announced that Japan’s IHI Corporation, through its wholly owned subsidiary IHI Plant Construction Co. Ltd (IPC), has completed the grid connection and begun commercial operation of a 500-kW solar installation featuring 1366’s high-performance wafers. During its lifespan, the array is expected to displace approximately 9,500 metric tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere. 1366 and IHI celebrated the completion of the system this week at a ceremony in Tokyo.

“This commercial installation delivers all of the expected benefits specific to solar power and then some, the energy payback of an installation featuring Direct Wafer products is accelerated to less than a year due to the fact that our technology uses just one-third the energy,” said Frank van Mierlo, CEO, 1366 Technologies. “IHI has a long history of identifying and adopting groundbreaking technologies, we’re proud the Direct Wafer process is part of that story.”

The array, located in the Japanese prefecture Hyōgo and consisting of IEC-certified modules fabricated by a Tier 1 manufacturer in China, includes more than 120,000 wafers made with 1366’s revolutionary Direct Wafer® process. All the wafers were produced at 1366’s demonstration facility, using the Company’s production-ready Direct Wafer furnaces.

This installation builds on the success at test sites in the United States, Germany and Japan and demonstrates the Company’s ability to run the Direct Wafer process at scale. It also underscores the broad appeal of the technology downstream where customers want advanced, high-quality systems with lower carbon footprints.

“It has been our goal to expand our portfolio of renewable energy systems with innovative technologies that dramatically reduce cost and deliver superior performance of photovoltaic systems. This installation achieves that goal,” said Otani, of IHI Corporation.

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June 15, 2017 - 5:48pm
posted by Billie Owens in business, STAMP, GCEDC, construction bids.

Press release:

The process for the construction of infrastructure in and around the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP) continues as the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) announced an advertisement for sealed bids for the construction of the STAMP main access road and widening of New York State Route 77/63.

Bids will be received by the agency up until 2 p.m. EST on June 27. 

The road work includes the construction of approximately 3,300 linear feet of new roadway and drainage for the STAMP main entrance between NYS Route 77/63 and Crosby Road, and an alternate bid that includes constructing a new northbound left turn lane on NYS Route 77/63, all located in the Town of Alabama.

“Bids for the road work are in addition to the bids that have been accepted , reviewed and awarded for water work to support STAMP,” said Mark Masse, senior vice president of operations at the GCEDC. “Over the summer we will see actual work being done to prepare the site which will only enhance the opportunities to market STAMP to emerging advanced technology manufacturing businesses.”

The issuing office for the road work bidding documents is Clark Patterson Lee, 186 N. Water St., Rochester (NY 14604). All inquiries should be made to Debbie Button-Vanderwall at [email protected] or at 585-402-7511. The bidding documents also can be viewed at this location on Monday-Friday between the hours of 8 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Only Written Requests For Information (RFI) will be accepted. If necessary, an Addendum will be issued by 5 p.m. EST on June 20. Requests should be made to Zach Anderson via email: [email protected] or facsimile: 585-232-5836.

This project is partially funded by Empire State Development. Prospective bidders should review the Empire State Development requirements included in the contract documents. The project also is subject to a Project Labor Agreement.

About the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC): The GCEDC is the primary economic development agency in Genesee County. The GCEDC’s mission is to assist local economic development efforts by serving in a conduit financing capacity enabling the issuance of taxable and non-taxable debt to benefit the growth, expansion, ongoing operations and continued viability of for profit business enterprise in Genesee County thereby helping to maintain a sustainable long-term economy. The Batavia/Genesee County region has been recognized for eight consecutive years by "Site Selection Magazine" as a top 10 micropolitan in the United States and is rated number three by "Business Facilities Magazine" as a top metro area for food processing and manufacturing growth.

June 2, 2017 - 11:04am
posted by Billie Owens in business, news, GCEDC, STAMP.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) Board of Directors approved the selection of LeChase Construction Services of Rochester at the agency’s June 1 board meeting. The GCEDC Board approved the selection based on the recommendation of the members of the GCEDC STAMP Committee.

The $3.18 million project includes the trenching and installation of approximately 50,000 square feet of pipe that will extend from the Town of Oakfield to the site of the Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park (STAMP). The work also will include connecting some households on Church Street and Maple Road in the Town of Alabama.

The project is being funded through $33 million allocated to STAMP by New York State to make the 1,250 mega-site shovel ready for advanced manufacturing operations, including 1366 Technologies.

“It’s exciting to see the first substantive infrastructure work that starts the process of making STAMP a shovel ready site,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “It really enhances our opportunities to market the site to those who are in the planning process of identifying shovel ready sites to build the next generation of advanced manufacturing facilities.”

April 24, 2017 - 11:29am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, STAMP, Alabama, business.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) today announced that William Kent Inc. in Stafford will conduct an auction for items in vacant structures on the site of STAMP -- Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park. The items to be auctioned are from 6758 Allegany Road; 6725 Crosby Road; and, 6840 Crosby Road. 

The auction will be held online from April 27 through May 2.  All items purchased must be removed from the properties by May 12.  The auction will precede asbestos removal and demolition of the structures.

The agreement between the GCEDC and William Kent Inc. states that the auction company will receive 10-percent commission of the sale of all items. William Kent Inc. also may deduct their fee from the gross sales receipts resulting from the sale of the items. The notice of the auction was published in The Batavia Daily News, Genesee Valley PennySaver (Oatka and Batavia editions) and the Lake Country PennySaver.

“There are items in the vacant structures that have some value and funds from the online auction will be used to mitigate costs associated with preparing the site for development,” said Mark Masse, senior vice president, GCEDC.

Since 1970, William Kent Inc. has conducted thousands of auctions across upstate New York from farm and commercial properties to estates and antiques.

For more information about the online auction please visit www.williamkentinc.com.

March 20, 2017 - 1:57pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, GCEDC, Alabama, business.

Press release:

The Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) today announced that bids for infrastructure work at STAMP -- Science, Technology and Advanced Manufacturing Park -- have been released. A legal notice announcing the bids will be published March 20.

The GCEDC also will host a pre-bid conference on March 29 at 10 a.m. at the MedTech Centre’s Innovation Zone so that interested parties can ask questions about specifications for the bids and other relevant information, including MWBE requirements and the Project Labor Agreement (PLA).

“We are extremely aware of the fact that the funding for the infrastructure work involves taxpayer money and as such this is going to be an extremely transparent process,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “We fully anticipate having shovels in the ground in a couple of months.”

Clark Patterson Lee is issuing the bids and will manage construction inspection for Phase I work for water infrastructure, including enhancements to the Town of Alabama water system. The engineering firm will also be issuing bids in the near future and managing construction inspection on roadways within the STAMP site and the main entrance off of routes 63 and 77. 

The firm will review the bids for the road and water infrastructure work and make recommendations to the GCEDC Board for approval.

March 3, 2017 - 9:07am
posted by Howard B. Owens in GCEDC, STAMP, business, news.

Staff at Genesee County Economic Development Center responded to 120 leads of businesses looking for locations to set up new facilities, CEO Steve Hyde told members of the County Legislature during his annual review of the agency's progress before the Ways and Means Committee.

The pipeline of high-tech businesses that are looking for the kind of location the STAMP project in Alabama provides includes at least two "whales," Hyde said.

That has kept staff busy, especially in a year when work continues to prepare STAMP for ground breaking this spring.

"We're one of the few counties in the state with lots of sites to choose from," Hyde said.

Those include not only STAMP but the Genesee Valley Agri-Business Park, Apple Tree Acres, Buffalo East, Gateway II, Upstate Med-Tech, Oatka Hills and now the Le Roy Food and Tech Park.

"Our body of work is as big as it's ever been at the agency," Hyde said.

It was a tepid year for job growth, Hyde said, and uncertainty around the Federal election in 2016 had many businesses sitting on their hands waiting to see what happened, but he thinks Genesee County is well positioned to move forward in the new era of technology-led growth.

While technology jobs tend to optimize for efficient production, there will be opportunities for people who want to live and work in Genesee County.

"You've got to go after these high-tech jobs because they're good paying, well-paying jobs for kids from high school degrees and technical training all the way up to PhDs," Hyde said. "They don't create as many jobs per square foot, but they create a lot of jobs for what we're used to in Genesee County."

This year will be a big year for implementation, Hyde said, especially on STAMP, with the beginning of a phased approach to a $40 million investment in roads, water, sewer, gas and electric at the site.

The agency is awaiting federal approval of a natural gas pipeline project that has apparently been delayed by the transition of White House administrations.

"There are not enough sitting commissioners Federal Energy Regulatory Committee to approve our little pipeline with natural gas," Hyde said. "Of course, they can approve the Dakota Pipeline but not that little stuff. That didn't get done."

There's also a delay in Department of Energy funding assistance for 1366 Technologies and without securing that funding, 1366 has delayed its own announcement of when it will be breaking ground on its solar wafer manufacturing facility in Alabama.

Meanwhile, to help support STAMP with a qualified labor force, GCEDC is working with area colleges and universities on a program called STEM to STAMP, which will provide course work suitable for the kind of jobs expected to be created at STAMP.

There's also a lot of interest at area high schools in filtering that coursework down to that level of education, including at Pembroke, Oakfield-Alabama, Batavia, and Byron-Bergen.

"We're all talking about, 'How can we take this model where we can take this curriculum that's developed by universities and colleges and bring pieces of that course work down into our secondary schools?' " Hyde said.

Given the potential of STAMP to create 11,500 good-paying jobs in high tech, Hyde said the agency continues to push state and federal officials for support.

"We're not getting there unless we continue to find ways to secure infrastructure funding, to expand the capacity, so I can go out and sell them and try to bag the big whale," Hyde said.

The GCEDC will host its annual meeting at noon today at Batavia Downs.

January 20, 2017 - 9:19am
posted by Howard B. Owens in STAMP, GCEDC, Alabama, business.

What started over a decade ago as a concept to market a site for the emerging advanced manufacturing industry became a reality as the Board of Directors of the Genesee County Economic Development Center (GCEDC) approved contracts to prepare bids for infrastructure work at STAMP. The first phase of infrastructure funding is part of the $33 million allocated to STAMP --  -- Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park -- from the Buffalo Billion.

“This is a watershed moment for STAMP,” said GCEDC Board Chairman Paul Battaglia. “We are finally going to start putting shovels in the ground to begin the process of building a next-generation site to bring advanced manufacturing companies to our region.”

The board approved a contract for $380,000 to the engineering firm Clark Patterson Lee to prepare bids and handle construction inspection for Phase I and Phase II work for water infrastructure, including enhancements to the Town of Alabama water system. The board approved a second contract for $165,000 to Clark Patterson Lee to prepare bids and handle construction inspection on roadways within the STAMP site and the main entrance off of Route 77. The firm will oversee the drafting, issuance and review of the various bids for the road and water infrastructure work.

“It’s one thing to say to corporate site selectors and economic development officials that you have a site for potential development as opposed to having a site that is shovel ready with road and utility infrastructure already built,” said Steve Hyde, president and CEO of the GCEDC. “Our site immediately rises to the top of the list among those making decisions about where they are going to build the next new advanced manufacturing facility.”

It is anticipated that the bidding documents for the water and roadway will work be released in mid-February with actual work to begin on site in late spring.

The GCEDC board meeting was held on Thursday, Jan. 19.

December 26, 2016 - 12:54pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in 1366 Technologies, STAMP, business, GCEDC.

The timeline has been pushed back, but expectations are still high for the eventual success of 1366 Technologies, the Bedford, Mass.-based solar wafer maker that anticipates eventually creating 1,000 new jobs in Genesee County.

Even as the process moves along slowly, 1366 continues to go forward.

Last week, the company announced a new record in solar power efficiency for a wafer in their product category; in August it unveiled a new beveled edge on its wafer, which helps retain wafer strength while keeping the wafer very thin.

These breakthroughs will help further reduce the cost of the energy produced by solar panels that use 1366's wafers.

The stated goal of 1366 is to help make the production of electricity from solar cheaper than electricity produced by coal.

That might have seemed like a moonshot-ambition when plans to locate 1366's manufacturing plant in the Town of Alabama were first announced two years ago, but the cost of solar energy has dropped by two-thirds in recent years and there are parts of the world now where solar arrays are producing electricity at a cost below that of coal.

In the rapidly evolving technology field, it might seem like delays in getting a new plant open would cause the business owners to worry about losing precious time, but that isn't the case, according to a spokeswoman for 1366.

"I’m sure you’ve noted this, but our path to commercial success has been methodical from day one," Laureen Sanderson said. "It’s one of the reasons why we’re now in a position to scale in a big way. It’s incredibly important to us that we’re careful stewards of all resources sent our way – private and public – and we think we’ve done a good job of balancing the demands to get to market quickly while taking what we see as essential steps to remove all risk – like getting a customer contract in place before a factory is even built."

The cost reductions achieved by the solar industry so far are largely incremental and the result of increasing scale, not big improvements in the technology. The silicon wafers used in solar panels today are made the same way solar wafers have been made for 40 years. The 1366 process is radically different.

Because the company is built around patented, proprietary technology and processes, officials believe they will come to market with a disruptive and competitive advantage whenever they ramp up to full-scale production.

"Direct Wafer technology is a singular achievement," Sanderson said. "We’re the first and only company to solve this manufacturing challenge. There are many great solar innovations out there but they’re in labs. Science projects. It takes years to move from the lab to the factory floor; most ideas never do. What we’ve achieved isn’t easy and the industry knows that."

What exactly is delaying groundbreaking at the new technology park in Alabama, WNY STAMP, isn't clear.

When we've asked Steve Hyde -- CEO of Genesee County Economic Development Center and the first advocate for a technology park in Genesee County more than a decade ago -- about the delays, he says everybody is continuing to diligently work on the process; there is ongoing progress, and he quotes one of his favorite phrases, "Economic development is a marathon. It isn't a sprint."

A year ago, officials expected to break ground in the spring. In September, Hyde said there would be a groundbreaking in the fall. Now, the earliest estimate is this coming spring.

Reached this morning, Hyde said infrastructure and construction bidding will start after the first of the year. Water service and the main entrance road will be bid out first. 

"2017 will be a busy year for construction," Hyde said. 

Frank van Mierlo, CEO of 1366, told E&E News earlier this year that he expects to be up and running at STAMP by the end of 2017. Van Mierlo reportedly told E&E that "permitting and red tape" have slowed progress.

"We're moving," he said. "It's certainly not moving as rapidly as one might hope." 

"It's going to be a stretch," he added. "The end of the year rather than the beginning. We definitely want to be in construction next year."

The reason everyone remains so upbeat about the prospects of 1366 is it seems like the company has charted a solid business model built on breakthrough technology.

This isn't PepsiCo trying to enter an already crowded Greek yogurt sector with a barely differentiated product and hoping marketing and supply chain alone could win. This is a company entering an emerging industry with growing demand and a process that will substantially reduce the cost of production.

"Nobody is close. We can produce the wafer at 30 cents a wafer," van Mierlo told E&E News. "Even at today's prices, you are still very profitable. At today's prices, nobody else is profitable. That is the point.

"There's no false modesty here," he added. "Our technology is truly revolutionary when it comes to reducing costs."

In his best-selling business book, "Zero to One," venture capitalist Peter Thiel says new businesses should be built around innovations that are a 10-times improvement over anything currently in the market. 1366 seems to be hitting that mark.

"The Direct Wafer process is a dramatic improvement over the way wafers are manufactured today and it’s specific to us," Sanderson said. "(We achieve a) 50-percent reduction in cost and two-thirds energy reduction over conventional (production) methods. Better yet is the product – which costs less and uses less (energy) to make, doesn’t require any tradeoffs in performance."

That's why the recent efficiency tests were so important. 

Efficiency is the measure of how much sunlight that hits a solar wafer is converted into electricity. The 1366 wafer was tested in conjunction with new technology from a partner company, Hanwha Q CELLS Co. Ltd., of Seoul, South Korea.

While there is other solar technology that has achieved higher efficiency, that isn't the norm in the industry.

"In a head-to-head comparison with standard high-performance multicrystalline (HPM) wafers, we exceeded the average performance of that HPM reference group," Sanderson said. "And there are more gains to be had through new wafer features that are possible because we’re able to work at the melt level. There’s no other company in the world able to do that."

In the startup world, the common advice, and the practice often most attractive to potential investors is a company that aims at a specific market segment, an achievable target that promises growth.

For 1366, their approach is to make only wafers (compared to Solar City, opening in Buffalo, that makes not just the wafer, but the entire solar panel and even handles installation) and sell them to companies on an international market that will make panels for industrial solar installations.

That's a very specific market, and 1366 already has customers lined up, most notably, Hanwha, their partner in the recent efficiency tests. The company has also secured an investment from silicon supplier Wacker Chemie.

Silicon, of course, is the key ingredient in making solar wafers. It's a derivative of sand, but unlike the process used to make silicon wafers for four decades, which involves shaving down silicon ingots into the appropriate shape and thickness, 1366 wafers are poured from molten silicon, like glass is made, using techniques developed at MIT.

This is why the wafers that will be made in Genesee County will cost less and produce less waste.

A key reason 1366 picked STAMP as its eventual manufacturing home is the availability of low-cost hydropower, itself an environmentally friendly, renewable energy source. That will also make it easier for 1366 to keep production costs down.

The proximity to Buffalo, however, has invited comparisons between 1366 and Solar City, which is opening at Riverbend and has been an ongoing source of speculation and controversy, but 1366 and Solar City are really very different companies. 

Solar City, as noted, is a vertically integrated manufacturer and distributor -- so much so that company Chairman Elon Musk has merged Solar City with Tesla, his company that makes electric cars. Musk wants to control the entire energy supply chain for his vehicles, from converting to solar energy to powering the batteries that Telsa makes, too.

A big part of Solar City's business model has long been residential solar installations, a market that has been seemingly dependent on state and federal tax subsidies, subsidies that have come under criticism and may not last under the Trump Administration.

While Trump campaigned on a promise to save coal jobs, every cabinet appointment he's made so far, notably Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon for secretary of state, and Rick Perry, for the Department of Energy, are hardly friendly to coal. They're interest lies closer to natural gas, currently coal's primary competitor for electricity generation, but that also wouldn't seem to bode well for backers of solar power.

Sanderson said 1366 isn't worried.

"Solar is a global industry and it’s growing rapidly," Sanderson said. "That’s not changing. Our technology will further support this growth as we continue the trend of costs coming down. We help to make solar even more accessible and we want to support this global growth with U.S. manufacturing and U.S. jobs."

There's still plenty of R&D work to do on solar, Sanderson noted, and 1366 received early-stage R&D funding from the Department of Energy.

"It’s important to keep in mind that while we’re a solar company, we’re also a manufacturer," Sanderson said. "We’re looking forward to working with the next administration to create U.S. manufacturing jobs."

In this case, of course, U.S. manufacturing jobs should translate into Genesee County manufacturing jobs. Time will tell.

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