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Tesla donates solar roof to Buffalo Heritage Carousel at Canalside

Tesla donates solar roof to Buffalo Heritage Carousel at Canalside

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Canalside carousel

Workers install a solar roof donated by Tesla on the Buffalo Heritage Carousel under construction at Canalside, Thursday, Aug. 27, 2020.

With Tesla opening a solar panel factory in 2017 and a solar-powered carousel in the works at Canalside, it seemed only a matter of time before the interests of the two converged.

Now they have.  

Tesla agreed to donate a solar roof to power the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, scheduled to open in the spring. The textured black tiles are being made at the company's RiverBend plant in South Buffalo. Each of the tiles will be stamped, "Assembled in Buffalo, NY, USA."

"With the support of Tesla, this rare and historic carousel will be powered by the sun and offer a new family recreational and educational attraction located along the boardwalk," said Laurie Hauer-LaDuca, president of Buffalo Heritage Carousel.

Assembled in Buffalo

Each solar roof tile being made for the Buffalo Heritage Carousel will say, "Assembled in Buffalo, NY, USA."

"We are so proud to be a local showcase for the solar roof tiles that are 'made in Buffalo, New York,' " she said.

Tesla did not put a dollar value on the two-tiered solar roof. Corky Burger, Buffalo Heritage Carousel's capital campaign director, said estimates received before Tesla stepped forward came in at around $150,000.

carousel construction

The timber frame of the Buffalo Heritage Carousel frame under construction at Canalside casts harsh shadows in the midday sun, Sunday, Aug. 23, 2020.

Assemblyman Sean Ryan, who helped jump start the carousel project by providing $600,000 in state funds toward the restoration, had urged Tesla to get involved with the carousel.

"This winter, I discussed the Buffalo Heritage Carousel project with the people at Tesla and told them it would be a great demonstration of a product made in Buffalo," Ryan said. "I'm so glad people will get to see the fruits of their taxpayer investments – a beautiful carousel powered by a solar roof made three miles down the road."

Solar roof coming to carousel

Tesla is donating a solar roof to power the Buffalo Heritage Carousel, which is expected to open at Canalside next year during Memorial Day weekend.

Tesla has kept a low profile when it comes to local corporate giving. A company representative declined to comment. 

The donation – and another that Burger said will be announced soon – leaves the nonprofit $950,000 shy of its $5.8 million goal, which includes the establishment of a $250,000 endowment.  

The octagonal roundhouse, designed by eco_logic STUDIO, will house a vintage, park-style menagerie carousel manufactured in 1924 by Spillman Engineering Co. in North Tonawanda. Officials report steady progress on construction of the building, by the boardwalk behind Clinton's Dish, since work resumed after a coronavirus-related shutdown.

Riding a vintage carousel at Canalside will have to wait until next May due to construction delays resulting from Covid-19. But helping build a 19th-century packet boat at the Longshed building, now due to be completed in September, appears possible by the end of the year. “The good news is they are back and moving,” said Steven Ranalli, president

The carousel remains on track to open Memorial Day weekend.

Local artists and artisans working with Buffalo Heritage Carousel finished the restoration and painting of the 34 carousel animals. Artists are now finishing work on the carousel rounding board paintings, interior scenery panels and custom-carved chariots as an Ohio company nears completion of the restoration of the carousel frame and mechanism. 

In addition, the Allan Herschell Company is replicating the original factory horseshoes and stirrups, and jewels and horsehair tails will soon be installed.

Mark Sommer covers preservation, development, the waterfront, culture and more. He's also a former arts editor at The News. 

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