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1366 Technologies drops plans for Genesee County plant

A solar energy products company that had planned to build a flagship factory in Genesee County that eventually could have employed up to 1,000 people isn't coming to Western New York – at least not for a long time.

The company, 1366 Technologies, said it has scrapped its plans to build a factory to make silicon wafers at the STAMP site in the Town of Alabama after failing to receive federal loan guarantees that it was counting on to finance the project.

Instead, 1366 Technologies said it will build the factory overseas.

The decision is a setback for the state's economic development efforts in the region, with the 1366 Technologies project in line to receive nearly $100 million in incentives had it been built.

The problem, 1366 Technologies officials said, was that the company never was able to complete an agreement for $150 million in loan guarantees from the U.S. Department of Energy.

Frank van Mierlo, chief executive officer of 1366 Technologies, New Bedford, Mass., said plans to build a plant in Genesee County have been dropped.

"While it has always been part of our strategic growth plan to build factories around the world, plans to scale internationally have accelerated following our recent and difficult decision to withdraw from the Loan Guarantee Agreement with the U.S. Department of Energy," said Frank van Mierlo, 1366 Technologies' CEO.

"The decision, which was driven by the need to conduct a lengthy and expensive renegotiation without any indication of the outcome, directly impacts our plan to build a New York plant," van Mierlo said in a statement.

The Genesee County factory, which would have been built by the state, would have been the first tenant in the 1,250-acre Western New York Science and Technology Advanced Manufacturing Park, or WNY STAMP. The factory was expected to be developed in phases, with initial production expected to make enough wafers to produce 250 megawatts of solar-powered electricity a year. That phase of the project, which could produce 1 million wafers a week, would have cost an estimated $100 million.

1366 Technologies is developing methods that it believes will allow the company to produce silicon wafers – the basic ingredient of solar cells – at half the cost of traditional methods once its 130,000-square-foot factory begins operating next year.

If the market developed as 1366 Technologies executives hoped, the plant eventually could have been expanded to increase its capacity twelve-fold, with the ability to produce enough wafers to make solar panels with 3 gigawatts of generating capacity annually.

Instead, 1366 Technologies will focus on building its first plant at an undisclosed overseas location. The company began seeking the federal loan guarantees during the Obama administration, but questions had grown about the company's ability to obtain that financing help under the Trump administration. The company said it had decided to stop seeking the loan guarantees.

While state officials had agreed to provide subsidies for the project, none of the state aid had been paid out to the company because the incentives were contingent on the factory being built and the company meeting its promised job and investment targets.

“New York’s commitment to 1366 Technologies was contingent upon their securing additional financing and since they have withdrawn from their DOE loan agreement, we won’t be able to move forward with the project at this time.” said Jason Conwall, an Empire State Development spokesman.

The company did not completely close the door on ever building a factory in Western New York, but that wouldn't happen until 1366 Technologies establishes its overseas production and builds a market for its silicon wafer products.

"A U.S. factory remains in our strategic plan and we’re pursuing that opportunity with a more efficient financing structure," van Meirlo said.  "When ready, the [Genesee County Economic Development Center] will be the first place we call.”

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