As work continues on the site of the future SolarCity manufacturing center in Buffalo, Senator Charles Schumer is pushing for changes in a solar tax energy tax credit that supporters say will promote more solar power use and secure the jobs expected to come to the giant Riverbend facility.
Currently, businesses looking to install solar energy at their facilities can receive a 30 percent tax credit but it does not come until completion of the project. Schumer wants to change the current rules so that companies can enjoy the credit as soon as they begin spending on the project.
He also wants to extend the current 30 percent rate beyond its scheduled expiration date next year, after which it would drop to 10 percent. Companies looking to undergo large-scale conversion projects, Schumer says, would be at risk of losing out on big savings.
"If the solar energy tax credit isn't renewed I don't get it," he said. "It's been renewed every year, every two years. So if this is a two- or three-year project, you're worried that it may not be there."
Schumer, who praised the SolarCity project for the construction jobs it has currently created, said the estimated 1,500 jobs expected to be created - as well as the roughly 1,500 more in supply-chain positions - would be further secured if companies have more incentive to install solar energy.
SolarCity executives and construction workers stood with Schumer to express their support for his proposed change to the tax credit rules.
"We're always preparing as a company for the eventuality if the tax credit were to drop down or go away," said Scott Hennessey, Director of Federal Policy and Regulatory Counsel for SolarCity. "But if folks want to see the jobs continue, the expansion and the lowering of costs to come with scale, this is the most important policy for the entire solar industry."
SolarCity, which manufactures solar panels, is expected to have its giant Buffalo manufacturing center fully operational in 2017.