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Disruption building SolarCity factory comes at difficult time

The interruption in state funding for building the SolarCity plant in South Buffalo comes at a difficult time for the solar panel maker.

Although the plant is being built by New York State for the company’s use, the high-profile company has had some stumbles recently.

The company’s stock has plummeted from $57.28 in mid-December to $18.70 on Friday, after it missed profit goals and reduced its business forecast. Potential changes in government subsidies for solar projects have further spooked investors.

And company CEO Lyndon Rive announced in December that full production at the Buffalo plant would be pushed back by six months due to difficulties securing the sophisticated equipment it will use.

The SolarCity project is the centerpiece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion economic development initiative. The $900 million plant, being built and equipped through a $750 million state investment, is expected to employ about 1,460 workers once it hits full production, churning out 9,000 to 10,000 solar panels daily at a factory that will be the biggest solar panel production facility in the Western Hemisphere.

The California company also has committed to hiring an additional 1,500 people in New York State over the next 10 years, according to documents filed with the federal government.

SolarCity also signed an amendment to its RiverBend contract with the State University of New York, saying it will increase its total direct employment from about 3,500 jobs to 5,000 jobs, according to its filing with federal regulators.