Leading US PV installer SolarCity has broken ground on its new 1GW fab in New York State, where it will manufacture modules with Silevo, the West Coast start-up it acquired earlier this year.

New York governor Andrew Cuomo attended a ceremony yesterday to mark the start of construction at the site at Riverbend, Buffalo.

SolarCity revealed its headline-grabbing acquisition of Silevo earlier in the summer as part of a plan to move upstream and realise a stated aim of achieving a “breakthrough” in the cost of solar power.

The fab will be located at the High-Tech Manufacturing Innovation Hub, a high-tech start-up facility owned by the State University of New York's College of Nanoscale Science and Engineering and built with state funding.

New York State will put US$750 million into building the facility and supporting infrastructure, and purchasing the necessary equipment. It is understood Solarcity will lease the facility for ten years and over that period invest US$5 billion into running the facility.

Cuomo said of the project: "We said four years ago that we have to change the mentality of Buffalo, and every day since we have been working hard to continue this new energy and momentum in Western New York. Less than a year after announcing our original plan [for the hub], one of the leading solar companies in the world is coming on board and making this the largest advancement for Buffalo's economy in a generation. This is bigger than anything we could have imagined.”

SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive said: "Governor Cuomo shares our view that the United States can return to its place atop the world in advanced technology manufacturing. Thanks to the Governor's leadership, we will be able to quintuple the output capacity and economic impact of Silevo's original commitment. I couldn't be more excited to partner with the state to make Western New York a global capital for clean energy development."

In conjunction with the beginning of work on the site and closing of the Silevo deal, SolarCity announced plans to issue US$500 million of convertible notes.

These will be due in 2019 and will be used for working capital and potential further acquisitions.

In a briefing note to investors, ROTH Capital Partners said the New York and Silevo deals were a “substantial win” for SolarCity.

Although it said SolarCity would be responsible for generating US$5 billion of economic activity over the next ten years, its “back-of-the-envelope analysis” suggested the US$500 million of implied economic impact was achievable as long as SolarCity met its planned 1GW of module shipments a year.

SolarCity’s vice president of structured finance, Albert Luu, will be part of a panel discussing the future of tax equity in solar at Next Generation Solar PV Finance in New York on 29 September. This one-day event is organised by PV Tech's publisher, Solar Media. Further details are available at financeusa.solarenergyevents.com/