A Blast From The Past At SolarCity

shutterstock_167988827SolarCity’s new solar facility is taking shape on the banks of the Buffalo River, but the road to new jobs and the creation of renewable energy is yet unpaved, and has indeed hit some speed bumps.

The expansive area being used to build the project was once home to Republic Steel, a prosperous industrial company with several Great Lakes locations, including one in Buffalo, NY. It was once the third largest steel producer in the United States. After newer technologies and competition made the facility obsolete (not to mention its restrictive location), it eventually shut its doors in 1984.

The Elon Musk-owned company acquired Silevo in June 2014, with plans to develop the Riverbend project as one of the largest solar plants in the world. The snow and frigid temperatures make Buffalo an unlikely solar city, but that hasn’t deterred developers from continuing with the project. Between the factory and its various suppliers, a projected total of 2,900 jobs is expected, setting the stage for a type of growth the area hasn’t seen in ages.

What the facility left in its wake is creating both headaches and intrigue for SolarCity. Construction crews are currently finding remnants of the Republic Steel plant while digging the foundation pilings for the new solar facility. The Buffalo News reported that LPCiminelli, developer of the project, understood that they would come across obstacles standing in their way, but the real troubles are exceeding expectations. From rail cars to slabs of concrete from the former site, each new discovery is slowing down the projected steel erection date of February 2015. Many of Republic Steel’s buildings were demolished in the late 1970s, however not all of the rubble was hauled away to the landfill or for recycling. Many old machines and random debris were simply pushed into the basement of these buildings and plowed over, making it a mystery as to what is still buried.

Ciminelli workers prepared as thoroughly as possible by studying old plans and photos of the plant to get an idea of what they would be up against. Keegan Lachut, an engineer with the company, stated, “Whatever was there, they demolished it, pushed it into the basement and covered it.” Some items needed an 18-wheeler to tow away due to their size. Additionally, some debris is so large that Ciminelli brought in a 200-ton excavator to dig them out for removal from the site. Despite these numerous setbacks, the company continues to work steadily in order to complete the project on time.

SolarCity is at the forefront of a Buffalo rebirth, reversing the blight of past industrial times when Buffalo was one of the most prosperous cities in North America. With the projected job totals, a $750 million infrastructure commitment from New York State, and a promise of revitalization unlike any other, any hindrance to the development of this facility would be harrowing. There is a tight deadline to complete construction by 2016, therefore, all entities involved are hoping for less history to be found, and a little more future to be built.



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