SolarCity announces delays on Buffalo plant

Workers paused for the topping off ceremony in Buffalo, August 2015.

The state’s gamble on SolarCity in Buffalo has slipped into a lower gear.

The firm’s $900 million factory, which is being built and equipped with $750 million in state incentives, was expected to reach full production during the first quarter of next year. Push that back by at least three — and maybe six — months, SolarCity CEO Lyndon Rive announced this week, blaming longer than expected lead time on equipment needed to get the plant in operation.

The factory is expected to employ about 1,400 workers once it finally hits full production next summer, producing 9,000 to 10,000 solar panels daily. The factory, which is being touted as the largest solar panel production facility in the Western Hemisphere, will be able to build enough solar panels annually to generate 1-gigawatt of electricity.

Rive said he expects construction on the 1.2 million-square-foot factory to be largely completed during the early spring of 2017. The company is expected to start installing production equipment after that and then begin limited manufacturing.

Silver lining: SolarCity said it expects to be able to push as much as $70 million in spending into next year, helping it become cash neutral sooner.

The news of the delay came as SolarCity’s stock is being hammered on Wall Street, following news that it fell short of fourth-quarter growth targets and will post a weak Q1 as it halts installation services in Nevada after regulators there slashed incentives.

The $750 million state investment includes $500 million from the famed Buffalo Billion and an additional $250 million in other coffers.