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Japanese solar panel maker looks toward U.S., possibly Buffalo, for factory

Japanese solar panel manufacturer Solar Frontier says the United States remains a strong candidate to land a solar panel factory that it is thinking about building, possibly in Buffalo.

“There are basically two criteria we’re looking to fulfill before we make a decision on where to locate our first overseas factory,” said Kai Maraun, a Solar Frontier spokesman in Tokyo.

“The first is that it is close to a key supply and demand market – and the 150-megawatt agreement with Cypress Creek Renewables, together with the 280-megawatt project development pipeline that we are now building ourselves, make the U.S. a strong candidate.”

That agreement with Cypress Creek Renewables, announced earlier this week, calls for Solar Frontier to supply panels for 150 megawatts of solar energy projects that the California-based solar energy developer is planning to build this year in five states. “The second requirement relates to proving the advanced technology of our Tohoku plant in Japan,” which is expected to serve as the blueprint for any overseas factory that Solar Frontier builds, Maraun said.

Construction on the Tohoku plant wrapped up last year, and Solar Frontier currently is fine-tuning its operations. “We anticipate starting commercial production in the coming months,” Maraun said.

Solar Frontier signed an agreement two years ago with state officials to explore the possibility of opening a solar module factory in Buffalo, while also setting up the company’s North American headquarters at the SUNY Polytechnic Institute campus in Albany.

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