Solar firm courting foreign investment for Rochester facility

Feb 1, 2012

Executives from foreign solar companies are descending on Rochester over the next couple of weeks, to hear a pitch from Natcore Technology.

“What we’re saying is, ‘If you want our technology, you have to take a hard look at it here,’ ” says Natcore CEO Chuck Provini.

Natcore has a small research facility at Rochester’s Eastman Business Park. For about a year, the company has been looking for money to establish a much bigger manufacturing presence in Rochester. But Natcore says talks with federal and regional officials have yielded no funding.

Now, Natcore is turning to solar companies from India, China and Italy for a possible joint venture that would make flexible solar cells on equipment that once made Kodak film.

But there’s a catch.

“It’s their money,” Provini says of the foreign companies. “And if they say, ‘Chuck, we really enjoyed the visit, but no,’ [then] we’re a business ... and we’ll go where we can best help save the world, not just a country.”

Making it here

Provini, a former Marine officer turned Wall Street executive, says Natcore is committed to American manufacturing.

He says his company’s technology makes solar cost-competitive with traditional power sources.

“It’s something that’s special to the solar industry,” Provini says. “And we’re hoping to benefit the United States from it.”

Still, he says convincing foreign companies to invest at least $20 million in an American manufacturing operation might be a tough sell.

Provini flew into Rochester Wednesday morning ahead of meeting with an Indian energy company Thursday. He says meetings with major solar manufacturers from China and Italy are lined up for the week of February 13.