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March 2, 2018 - 12:19pm

BREAKING: Unable to reach agreement with Department of Energy, 1366 withdraws from STAMP for first factory

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.

joe miano
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Boy I didn't see that coming ! (Sarcasm ) What a waste of time and money .

Ed Hartgrove
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How do you figure it was a waste of money, Joe?
I believe Steve Hyde did pretty well for himself on that deal.

Oh, you mean taxpayers. I think taxpayers are getting used to "gov't" doing things like "building a road to nowhere".

Sad, isn't it?

John Roach
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This whole STAMP project has been one deep hole we keep pouring money into. that 1366 has been touted as the business that would fire this whole project up. Now, it's a big flop.

Ed Hartgrove
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As for 1366's statement that "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."

I'm guessing that, should they ever call GCEDC about having any available property to buy/lease, they'll be told that they get to have "first pick" of any dite within the STAMP parcel.

D'ya suppose any of those "would have been 1,000 local workers" have sold their homes, or, relocated to the area, in anticipation? I certainly hope not.

Scott Birkby
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Perhaps they can consider turning that site into another nice cemetery.

Brian Graz
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For all the times I predicted and warned of this happening, along with trying to expose the risk and sham that government 'economic development' on the backs of the taxpayers is... only to receive opposition, ridicule, and scorn, I almost am glad to be able to say it... but I won't.

Yea I will, I told ya.

Anyone watching the SolarCity madness should have gotten a clue. Of course SolarCity [now Tesla] is still touting 2000 new jobs Statewide within 5 years. Wanna bet the operation is out of business in NYS by then?

cj sruger
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scam from the start, just like all these programs are, these company's have no intentions of actually coming here.

David O'Connor
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Making Genesee County Great Again?!?!

david spaulding
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yep .. All the talk of the "high paying" jobs being dangled in front of the taxpayer.......
so now what? hope to sell it at cost so taxpayer breaks even? any and all tax breaks will be included, just ask.....

tom hunt
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At best a fishing expedition to see how much they can milk from the government. The dream of high paying jobs in the Alabama swamps is nothing but a pipe dream.

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