Solar Subsidy: The Big Risk Embedded in Buffalo’s Billion

New York State’s investment of nearly $1 billion in a massive solar panel factory in Buffalo is the most “mega” in a series of mega-projects Governor Andrew Cuomo has announced as part of his ambitious Upstate Revitalization Initiative. The governor says the state government’s financial assistance to SolarCity, the nation’s leading installer of residential solar energy systems, will transform the western New York economy “by creating a vibrant clean energy sector, and bringing thousands of new jobs in the process.” The project’s impact on employment has been “greatly over-stated” by counting sales and installation jobs that an expanding SolarCity would be expected to create in New York even if the plant were located elsewhere. The underlying capital financing arrangement will expose New York taxpayers to considerably more financial and economic risk than the state’s previous economic development deals. This report concludes with several recommendations for policymakers, nonprofits, and corporations.

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