Solar company could bring big jobs to Rochester - but big ifs remain

Feb 22, 2011

Rep. Louise Slaughter dropped by Kodak's Eastman Business Park today to pull back the veil on efforts to bring a New Jersey solar company to Rochester.

It almost entirely depends on Kodak landing an $8 million federal grant from the Department of Energy (DOE), but if everything works out, the potential impact would be big.

Natcore CEO Chuck Provini says his company's solar cell manufacturing line in Rochester would create between 2,000 and 4,000 direct and indirect jobs within a couple of years.

But, again, that's if everything works out.

"If all the numbers come true and we're here," said Provini at the factory floor press conference, "then this is where [the jobs] will stay."

Natcore says it wants to make flexible, roll-to-roll solar panels at Eastman Business Park. That's because the process of manufacturing thin-film solar cells is very similar to manufacturing photographic film. Provini says the match makes sense because the assets the photo giant can offer his small company are unparalleled.

According to Provini, setting up shop at Eastman Business Park will drop Natcore's solar cell manufacturing costs by 60 percent.

But it's unlikely the deal will happen without help from DOE.

In Washington, Slaughter says she's stumping hard on behalf of Kodak and Natcore. She says a decision from DOE is expected within a month. The competitive grants are part of the agency's $125 million Photovoltaic Manufacturing Initiative

Let's just hope this doesn't become Slaughter's next preemptive press conference to go awry. Back in October she announced that $3.6 million in funding for a University at Buffalo "cyclotron" was a done deal. It didn't quite pan out that way.