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Solar Industry Shines in New York State


The solar industry is growing, but is it powering business expansion and job creation in New York State? Between 2011 and 2014, the number of NYS solar projects grew from 8,989 to 25,947 – nearly a three-fold increase. Growth in the Albany region was especially strong, and the Capital District added almost 43 new megawatts (MW) of capacity, a five-fold increase.
Monolith Solar Associates, an installer of photovoltaic panels, offers evidence that New York’s solar industry is also an economic engine. Founded in 2009, the company has grown from a founder’s garage to offices in Rensselaer and Albany. Today, the Rensselaer office is so overcrowded that Monolith’s vice president, Steve Erby, has announced plans to move corporate headquarters to the Vista Technology Campus in Bethlehem.
Monolith’s new HQ will be four times larger than the Rensselaer location, but square footage alone isn’t an economic indicator. According to the Albany Business Review, Monolith will nearly double its workforce, adding 60 employees to current staffing levels that range between 40 and 50 people. Much of this job growth will be driven by large solar projects in Rensselaer County and Schenectady County.
Across the state in Buffalo, the SolarCity factory is expected to employ nearly 1,500 people. The California-based company won’t start hiring production workers until later this year, but plans to employee up to 400 people by Q1 2015. As part of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Buffalo Billion program, the new facility is expected to make the region a leader in solar panel manufacturing by 2017, when the factory will run at full capacity.
Manufacturers need reliable, cost-effective power, and “going green” must support the bottom line. New York State’s solar industry is strong and growing, but will its benefits reach manufacturers who neither produce nor install solar panels? For example, will the proliferation of solar farms make the Empire State an even better place to make things?
Image Credit: © Philip Kinsey/Dollar Photo Club


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