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Solar wafer plant to anchor WNY business park

BATAVIA — A Massachusetts company whose goal is to make solar power cheaper than coal announced plans Wednesday to build a manufacturing facility that could eventually provide up to 1,000 jobs in western New York.

Bedford-based 1366 Technologies will be the anchor tenant in the Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park, known as STAMP, in Genesee County, company officials and Gov. Andrew Cuomo said during a news conference near the site.

The facility will make silicon wafers, which are the building blocks of solar cells and the most expensive component of solar panels.

“The solar industry is booming, not just here in the U.S., where installations are increasing at a record pace, but worldwide,” said 1366 Technologies Chief Executive Frank van Mierlo, whose company will invest $700 million in the project. “It’s becoming a real solution to the energy mix.”

The site eventually will house 400 furnaces and make more than 600 million high-performance silicon wafers each year using a “radically redesigned” manufacturing process that produces the 6-inch square wafers at half the cost and using a third of the energy, van Mierlo said.

The company expects to hire at least 600 people over the next five years and employ as many as 1,000 in the future. Construction is scheduled to begin next year.

Along with a state incentive package that includes up to $56.3 million and up to 8.5 megawatts of low-cost hydropower, the project received a $150 million loan guarantee from the U.S. Department of Energy.

“Solar power is, according to everyone, a big solution for the future,” Cuomo said, “and a solution that we wanted to be part of.”