Schenectady County

GE solar plant to Colorado, but 100 linked jobs here

Schenectady County won’t get the nation’s largest thin-film solar panel plant, but will gain 100 job

Schenectady County won’t get the nation’s largest thin-film solar panel plant, but will gain 100 jobs associated with General Electric’s growth in the renewable energy division over the next three to five years, an official said Thursday.

GE will invest $300 million to retrofit and expand a 200,000-square-foot warehouse in Aurora, Colo., according to Victor Abate, vice president of GE’s renewable energy business. He said the company tried to find a spot suitable in the Capital Region or elsewhere in New York, but couldn’t find anything they could get operational by next year.

“There wasn’t a building big enough we could move into,” he said.

But Abate said GE is still deeply invested in expanding in New York, as evidenced by the anticipated growth of high-end jobs in the state already announced. He said the 100 additional jobs will be split between the Renewable Energy headquarters in Schenectady and the Global Research Center in Niskayuna.

“These are high-end management and technology jobs that will be in the Capital Region,” he said.

Ray Gillen, chairman of Schenectady County’s Metroplex Development Authority, was pleased with the anticipated addition of jobs to the area and remains optimistic about GE’s growth in the state. He said the company’s choice of Colorado was based on what was available locally.

“Schenectady County has no existing buildings of this size to meet GE’s requirements,” he said. “In fact, the company did not find a single building in New York state that met its needs.”

In April, GE announced it would invest $600 million into its solar energy division to build a facility capable of producing enough panels per year to power 80,000 homes. Criteria for the new plant included locating it near a major power source, being close to a logistic network linking the plant’s supply chain with transportation and being in an area large enough to accommodate roughly 1 million square feet of production space.

Part of the investment included the purchase of PrimeStar Solar Inc., a Colorado-based company producing a record-setting thin-film solar panel. The company is also vested in further research and commercialization of the product, which is expected be marketed to power companies and other major electricity users.

New York was among 10 states in the initial running for the new facility, and was the runner-up when the final decision was announced.

GE’s proposed plant in Aurora is located less than 20 miles from PrimeStar Solar. Abate said finding a plant that fits GE’s needs in close proximity to its existing panel production plant will allow the company to meet its aggressive timetable to start production.

“As they bring online the factory, those investments will continue at the research center and the renewable energy headquarters,” he said.

GE is expected to start moving equipment into the new plant as early as January. By the end of the first phase of its expansion, the facility is expected to employ 350 workers and have about 700,000 square feet of space — roughly the size of 11 football fields.

Gillen said GE’s expansion in Colorado will lead to further success in New York, with the research center and headquarters both continuing to pay dividends as GE increases its clean-energy business.

“We support GE’s decision as we know that Schenectady will benefit as the company continues to land orders for solar panels,” he said. “We are already seeing the benefits of this growth in GE’s solar business with the announcement of 100 new jobs headed to Schenectady.”

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